Pokémon Go-ing for World Gaming Dominance… Is the Licensing World Next?

Posted by LIMA Marketing on July 13, 2016

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zubatIf you were at this year’s Licensing Expo Keynote, you may have heard Hasbro’s Simon Waters mention the rise of the “phigital” experience.  Looking for an example of this?  All you have to do is step outside.

Pokémon Go is the new smartphone game phenomenon that merges the physical world with the digital world.  The object is simple:  go.  Go outside and catch Pokémon in “real life.”

As soon as the app launches, players see what Pokémon are in their area – the idea is to walk around and explore new locations to catch all the characters.  Like connecting brightly colored candy or shooting birds at pigs, it may seem simple in its object, but it is addictive in its execution.   This is becoming increasingly obvious as you see your neighbors and/or fellow commuters feverishly swiping at their phone to “catch ‘em all.”  The app uses your phone’s GPS and clock to determine which Pokémon will show up in your area – so whether you’re in the city, at the park, or by the beach, there’s a Pokémon coming for you.

After essentially avoiding mobile gaming prior to 2016, Nintendo blew off the doors with its first solid endeavor into the market.  A mere week after its release, Pokémon Go has already overtaken Twitter in its number of daily average users in the US.  It is now the biggest mobile game ever – exceeding Candy Crush’s 2013 record of approximately 20 million daily average users.  Rumor has it that it’s even possible for Pokémon Go to overtake Snapchat and Google Maps.

Some questions arise as the craze moves on to week two:

What is the appeal?
Well, that’s a two-fold answer.  For one, there’s a new sense of fun in the exploration of your surroundings – perhaps bringing an awareness of historic sites you didn’t even know existed and are now suddenly a popular Pokéstop or gym.  As you encounter fellow gamers in real life, you may make new friends who are also enjoying the camaraderie of the revitalized Pokémon craze.  We’ve even heard of players using it as a dating app (we’ll stick to hunting for Pikachu, personally.)

The second part of its appeal is the notion of reuniting with an old friend. Millennials are the obvious first target, as Pokémon is a part of their youth identity.  As they enter the next phase of life – career, marriage, family, etc. – the desire for products that tap into their own childhood suddenly increases. The same kids who once traded cards and tried to beat the Gameboy games are now 20-somethings living their dreams of catching Pokémon in real life.  Nostalgia has once again breathed new life into an old brand, which is clear as we watch Nintendo’s stock continue to soar this week.

Will other generations Go?
For anyone born prior to the mid-1980s or after 2000, nostalgia isn’t really playing a role in the decision to download.  But the sheer sensation of Pokémon Go is inspiring curiosity.  It is taking over social media.  It is on the news (did you hear about the woman who found the dead body in a river looking for aquatic Pokémon??)  Is downloading Pokémon Go just inevitable?

The current Gen-Xer is around 40 years old now.  Will they see the point in throwing Pokéballs at animated creatures?  Will their children?  In the meantime, Generation Z didn’t grow up with Pokémon, but they have been raised with mobile gaming since birth.  It seems only natural that they would want in.  Nintendo has not yet released any demographics on who is downloading the app, but we’ll be curious to see how far the age range of players extends beyond the likely Gen-Y target.

So what does this mean for the licensing industry?
Only 7 days after Pokémon Go’s release, it’s too early to have figures – but, as players become reacquainted with the storyline and characters, our guess is that we’re about to see a renewed interest in licensed Pokémon  products with retail sales to match.  We would also expect a new crop of users to be coveting their own Charmander merchandise.  It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks how other brands partner with Nintendo.  As of this writing, there is talk of sponsored Pokéstops and Nintendo is already pursuing a partnership with McDonald’s. No question the insta-success of Pokémon Go is already putting pressure on other brands to “step up their game.”  Who will respond first?  And with what?

What is the staying-power?
Good question.  We don’t know the answer.  Neither does Nintendo.  But there is no denying that, with the astounding numbers it has already achieved in such a short time, Pokémon Go is making history as a game-changer – pun intended.


Christina Jordan (director) and Hillary Benton (coordinator) are LIMA’s marketing duo. Christina still isn’t sure what Pokémon is, exactly – but admits if an app showed up where you could catch Cheer Bear, she would download in a second. Hillary cannot comment as she is busy trying to catch the Golbat in the LIMA office that continues to evade her.