Pokémon phenomenon lures Penticton residents to the game

Not many pop culture phenomenons get a second go around.

Penticton Pokémon trainers Chelsea and Brendan Terry try to catch ‘em all at the Leir House on July 21

Penticton Pokémon trainers Chelsea and Brendan Terry try to catch ‘em all at the Leir House on July 21

Not many pop culture phenomenons get a second go around, however with a $7.5 billion increase to Nintendo’s market share, it appears Pokémon is debunking that myth.

The success of the augmented reality game has been documented, ridiculed and lauded worldwide, and clubs are forming in Penticton as players try to catch ‘em all.

Alex Molina started the Pokémon Go Penticton Facebook page after the game came out. A long-time fan of the franchise, ever since the popular games and TV show of the ‘90s, he was excited at the prospect of the augmented reality game. He and his coworkers are already on the same Pokémon team, one of three that players can choose to align themselves with.

The Facebook page put on an event at the Penticton Rose Garden on July 17 where players came out to gather, swap stories and of course, catch some Pokémon. The page acts as a hub for those looking to meet up, or drop lures, which attract more Pokémon to a certain spot for all players to benefit from. As well, players can point out where more rare Pokémon are popping up around town.

“I don’t want to say that it’s a bonding experience, but it’s cool that enough people enjoy it to go out and do that. It’s always kind of been my dream as a kid to run around and chase Pokémon, so doing that for real, or real enough, is pretty cool,” Molina said.

The negative coverage — fears that too many are looking at their phones or entering private property while playing the game — doesn’t deter Molina, who sees the positives of being active while enjoying the game.

“There’s always negative aspects to everything, unfortunately. I had one friend on Facebook post something about how we are going to be staring at phones more than we already are,” Molina said. “To a point that’s true, but it gets me out of the house more, I’m kind of a bit anxious.”

He recalled a recent adventure where he was out catching Pokémon and ended up catching a real world fish, and helped a bird who had gotten itself stuck.

“That wouldn’t have happened if I was going to just stay home and play video games there, I was staring at a screen anyways,” Molina said.

Allison Markin, digital marketing consultant with All She Wrote, has already had around 10 businesses inquire about the game in two days, looking to see how they may benefit or incorporate their businesses with the surge in popularity. Markin is advising a wait-and-see approach.

“This one has come out in such a big, fast way, and the tendency we have as businesses and marketers is to say ‘oh my gosh, we need to be jumping on this, what can we do right now,’ when you need to take a step back, at least for a short time, and come up with a strategy and a plan,” Markin said.

She does see ways businesses and non-profits can find a use for the game, using the in-game Pokéstops, which are real-world landmarks offering bonuses in the game when players visit, to create some synergy.

“Let’s say there is a (Pokémon) character outside of a downtown business. Then you want to maybe use that as an opportunity with a Pokéstop, so if someone plays the game, stops, makes a purchase and gets some sort of bonus,” Markin said.

She has heard of non-profit businesses in the U.S. taking advantage of a Poké-stop to encourage donations of canned goods.

The South Okanagan Events Centre recently posted on Twitter for players come down and catch a Pokémon if they’re out and about and looking to purchase concert tickets.

Markin noted that a dating app has already latched on to the popularity of the game, saying that it is only inevitable we will see the first marriage born out of Pokémon Go sometime in the future.

She is still recommending businesses wait and get a grip on the game before jumping in full force.

“The caution I’ve been saying to people is that it has come out so quickly, so fast, that it may just burn out before you have the chance to use it properly,” Markin said. “And so do you want to jump in right now? Or do you want to wait and see how it kind of flows and what happens with it, it’s a bit of a slippery slope.”

She said she is currently sitting on the fence as to how to proceed with Pokémon Go from a marketing standpoint.

“On one hand I see the opportunity, on the other hand if you mess it up and you have, let’s say a dozen people coming into a small business and disrupting things, that may not be a good idea,” Markin said.