By LAY HSUAN, LIM
An amusing news that has captured everyone’s attention over the past week is none other than the augmented reality (AR) mobile game developed by Niantic Labs, the Pokémon Go. It has gotten people all around the world impatiently anticipating its official release dates by Nintendo in their respective countries. Malaysians aren’t spared this ‘tortuous’ wait.
Since its release in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada and Germany, the game has gotten people hooked on their smartphones in public and at the oddest of places, i.e. in museums, funerals and places of worship.
For the uninitiated, the Pokémon game series was first launched in 1996 in Japan for the Game Boy as role-playing games. Leveraging on the cartoon’s branding, the Pokémon game is now given a new lease of life in the world of mobile technology, where the line between real and virtual life is becoming blurred.
Let’s break it down to see how this Pokémon Go might impact you as an individual and as a business entity.
1. An excuse to be in the outdoors
The game literally forces players out of their ‘comfort zone’ to literally walk about to capture virtual monsters and collect valuable items for the gameplay. This could mean that employees now have more excuses to be in the outdoors and to hold walking meetings than being cooped up in their cubicles.
For Malaysian employees who usually eat in or have lunch boxes delivered to their office doorstep, I’m sure serious players will now rethink their lunch plans to actually go ‘jalan-jalan cari makan’ (Malay phrase for food-hunting) and catch some monsters at the same time. Who knows, a Pokéstop is just around the corner of their favourite coffee house near their office premise.
2. Engagement tool for employees
This AR game has gotten gamers and non-gamers talking about it. If a game of Fantasy Football during the Premier League season has kept employees engaged and built a sense of camaraderie in the workplace, what more a game of Pokémon Go, where you can build allies and pick your team between Red, Blue and Yellow?
It keeps conversation going about everyone’s points and their weekend adventure walks around places they’ve never explored in the city or their neighbourhood to try to ‘catch them all’. They could discuss strategic plans to coordinate with other players to battle it out to capture gyms in nearby areas too.
3. Lure customers and increase sales
According to a Bloomberg news report, the game craze is bringing in real money to random bars and pizzerias in the United States.
Business owners are creatively cooking up ways to drive foot traffic of players to their business premises and turn them into paying customers. They are figuring out how to monetise on Pokémon Go with deals, promotions, special events and Lure Modules, in the world of Pokéconomy (Pokémon Go-driven economic environment).
At the local front, Malaysians can be quite a creative lot when it comes to seizing such business opportunities and trending craze. Remember Chickaboo, the runaway ostrich?
I’m waiting to see how business owners here might leverage the Lure Module feature to do things a bit differently, perhaps a truly Malaysian way. With our famed mamak culture and our social media savviness, who knows what sort of ingenuity will come out from my fellow Malaysians.
4. Rise of distraction and irrational behaviour
On the flipside, there have been reports of engrossed players falling into ditches or stung by bees because they lost their sense of awareness of their surrounding while their eyes are glued to their screens. The Pokémon frenzy has also caused irresponsible players to play while they are behind the wheels, or while they are at work.
An Australian expatriate lost his job recently for ranting on social media and cursing Singapore openly for not having Pokémon Go (yet).
When Pokémon Go arrives in Malaysia, employers had better send out gentle reminders or set ground rules for their employees to play the game responsibly so as not to affect work productivity and efficiency. Don’t say you have not been given the heads-up.
Come out and play!
Niantic Labs’ AR approach could be a watershed in the world of gamification and consumer market to innovate more such games and apps. It would be interesting to see how Niantic Labs and Nintendo plan to take their collaboration further to look at ways to drive revenue since its massively successful engagement rates this Pokémon Go has established.
And of course, how organisations can partner with these gaming companies for a branding campaign that uses gamification to create a company storyline to attract potential clients. Or how it can used to create some sort of business simulation for learning and development purposes.
For now, let’s hope Malaysian players are conscientious enough to know when is the right time and place to play, and when it is a complete ‘no-no’. So please, don’t Pokémon-Go and drive!