"The opportunity for marketers is purely hypothetical at the moment": Prabhakar Mundkur on Pokémon Go

By Prabhakar Mundkur , HGS Interactive, Mumbai | In Digital
Last updated : July 20, 2016
A look at the augmented reality-based game through the lens of our special guest columnist.

Pokémon Go, which has already taken the world by storm, but is not yet released in India, has already overtaken the Tinder and Twitter record for its number of downloads and engagement in the first few days.

Prabhakar Mundkur

The game shifts constantly between reality and augmented reality as if it were shifting sands, resulting in an augmented reality warp. It's a hell of a deviant mash-up of GPS and gaming. This takes location-based apps to that one level up when it becomes really exciting - the difference between plain vanilla fat burn and real cardio when you are working out in your local gym. The game seems to have created an entirely different perception at the axis where geography (GPS) and gaming (augmented reality) meet.

This unique warp bubble in Pokémon Go then leads you out into the real world looking for creatures. The game uses GPS to detect your location and then shows you nearby spots where the creatures can be found. The more you dare to step out, the better it gets. But, people who have already played it for a few days swear that it's not just another hunt.

As you walk around in real life you can see your mirror image or avatar navigate a world populated by lots of virtual locations tied to real-world landmarks where you can gather 'Poké balls' and other items. When you come across a Pokémon, the phone will use its rear camera to let you see it on the screen as though it's hanging out in the real world in front of you. You can pick and customise your own avatar. How's that for leading a double life? Fortunately, the characters seem quite familiar because they have been around since the '90s.

So how is Pokémon Go monetised?

Niantic (dubbed The Pokémon Company) makes money by selling coins. Users purchase coins using real money and the coins are used to buy items that enhance the entire gaming experience. One of the popular things to purchase in the game are 'lures'.

A lure, when activated, attracts creatures to that area. They last 30 minutes each. Lures only work when activated as a module in a 'Pokéstop' which is a geographical location chosen by Niantic where players can re-charge their Poké balls.

When purchased in bulk, it costs about $1.20 per hour. Let's say, a retail store or brick-and-mortar business is located close to a Pokéstop; you can attract players of the game to your location. But, Niantic has not been talking to businesses to monetise the game, so the opportunity for marketers is purely hypothetical at the moment in spite of news that the game is attracting the likes of McDonalds. If you can buy Pokéstops and Gyms (which you reach after level 5), there is a possibility of creating further monetising opportunities.

So, what will happen if it is introduced in India?

Considering the fact that the number and density of people and cars/two wheelers in India are perhaps the highest in the world, we may create more traffic jams and overcrowd our streets, since there is really no space for critters to hide.

Overseas, people are falling off cliffs, getting shot at, and crashing their cars leading to serious injuries while paying the game. Imagine getting stuck in a narrow street in Mumbai's Kalbadevi with people, cars, handcarts, and filth, looking for monsters.

In the meantime, everyone is waiting and watching to determine if this is a fad that will die, if they will see the bell-shaped curve of users move quickly into the 'early majority', or if it is a mere precursor to better and more exciting games that will melt and mould geography with augmented reality.

Whatever it is, it may take attention away from other media, especially social media. But, for the moment, the early movers seem comfortable sinking deep into a kind of mediated reality - a reality modified by a miniscule silicon chip.

(The author is chief mentor, HGS Interactive)

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First Published : July 20, 2016


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