Augmented Real Estate?

Can you recall the last time you saw a person reading a book on the move? Today you are much more likely to see people gazing at their mobiles busily collecting colourful creatures. They are probably playing Pokémon Go which was released on 6 July 2016 and encourages people to hunt for creatures and play fantastical battles against other Pokémon characters in Pokémon Gyms. Unusually, the attention of older generations has been captured as well, evolving into a fan base of approximately 5.3 million people in the UK alone. There are over 130 million users worldwide and shares in Japan's Nintendo (who have a financial stake in the game) have doubled in value since the game's release. Unsurprisingly businesses are keen to explore any hidden opportunities as a result of this craze.

What can the game offer to the business community?

Small businesses are taking advantage of the phenomenon, for example, coffee shops have started advertising themselves as Poké Stops to attract customers searching for Pokémon characters. Recently in the US a small local pizza business called L'inizio spent $10 on 'Lures' (items which draw Pokémon into the vicinity) and increased their sales by approximately 75%. Not only this, but bars situated within the vicinity of a Poké Gym have been offering discounted drinks to players currently in control of a Poké Gym.

The game could have an even bigger impact on the customer base of more recognised businesses. Niantic (who developed the game) have created in-app advertising in the past and it has been reported by Campaign Live (who analyse brands and marketing trends) that Niantic may allow retailers and restaurants to become sponsored Pokémon locations. There are suggestions that Niantic will charge a fee, producing a monetary value for the free-to-play game, and the business will draw in more customers because of its sponsored location.

However, the CEO at Niantic John Hanke, has stated "there are no immediate plans for sponsored locations but it is easy to see how it would be a possibility". There are not many examples of UK businesses taking advantage of the game yet but there have been indications that businesses may look to advertise themselves on the actual game which could be a cheap and effective way of marketing.

How is the game affecting real estate?

Remarkably in the US, real estate agents are finding ways to use the game to sell houses. Whilst this is more likely to appeal to those under 30, according to sources in the US, properties are being advertised specifying that they are located next to a Poké Gym or Poké Stop in order to attract more attention.

There have even been reports that Pokémon may start to increase the value of properties. Rob Levy (an Australian real estate agent) stated that "Pokémon Go would absolutely have an effect on a property's rental or sales price, especially among those under 35 and looking for their first home". Others have said that it will only have an effect on the rental value and not the market value of property. No effect is being seen in the UK yet, but the marketing tools are being put in place, especially in the US and Australia.

In terms of retail, Canary Wharf in London is a prime example of a landlord who has embraced the concept. They have even produced an official map for Pokémon users showing all the Poké Stops and Poké Gyms and are giving out real prizes. Since the game encourages players to be on the move (as this is how players catch characters and hatch eggs) Canary Wharf are reporting greater footfall. Hammerson (who run approximately 58 shopping centres and retail parks in the UK and France) has also started placing 'Lures' in its centres and currently holds 26 Poké Stops and 7 Poké Gyms bringing more players into the shopping centres. More generally retailers are looking to combine the spikes in footfall they are experiencing with tailored in-store events and promotions to maximise spending opportunities.

Twitter is also filled with people posting pictures of Pokémon characters they have caught at retailers all over the world. At Canary Wharf for example Pokémon players have to tweet screen shots of the Pokémon creatures they have caught to win real prizes. Camille Waxer (Managing director for the Canary Wharf Group) has commented that Pokemon is "an ingenious application of technology and the potential for developers and estate managers". At last the smartphone is assisting retailers rather than simply making it easier to shop online.

Most importantly the widespread nature of the game means that many more people are being exposed to the concept of augmented reality. It probably won't be long before residential and commercial property viewings are put on this footing as the real estate world catches up with technology. Whilst Pokémon may not last forever, it is paving the way towards an accessible form of augmented reality where imagining a space can be achieved at the touch of a button.

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