Pokémon GO is Revolutionizing Location-based Advertising While Building a Planet-scale 3D Map at the Backend

While providing an advertising platform to businesses, Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, is also building its own Real World Platform that leverages the processing power and cameras of gamers’ smart devices.

Image credit: Niantic

Pokémon GO had introduced the world to a whole new genre of mobile gaming, that is, a location-based Augmented Reality (AR) game. It uses mobile devices with GPS to locate, capture, train, and battle virtual creatures called Pokémon, which appear as if they are in a player’s real-world location.

The wildly popular game requires players to constantly move and explore their outdoor surroundings in order to progress. It designates popular landmarks and other real-world locations as PokéStops and gyms, which players need to visit to collect game items and to battle with other players. Since its launch in 2016, the game has surpassed one billion downloads.

Location-based AR marketing

The game developer, Niantic, uses Pokémon GO as a marketing and advertising platform for businesses. The game technology includes marketing applications such as digital signs that appear as players walk near stores, restaurants and other businesses, showing them customized offers and other promotions.

In addition, brick-and-mortar stores can enroll as PokéStop or gym locations within the game, driving foot traffic into their stores. The program allows businesses to upload in-game special offers, or schedule mini-game activities at specific times.

For example, the fast food chain McDonald’s has sponsored 3,000 PokéStops in Japan. As players stop by to catch Pokémon and other in-game items, they are very likely to fuel up on foods as well. Research by GLOBIS University in Japan revealed that throughout the campaign, McDonald’s received 1.5 to 2 million daily visits across the 3,000 locations, with an estimated sales increase of 22%.

Image credit: bitcatcha

In-game brand advertising

In December 2020, two big brands – The North Face and Gucci – launched their outdoor collections, which included clothing, bags, boots, tents, and sleeping bags. Born out of “the spirit of exploration”, the two brands collaborated with Niantic to make the limited-edition collections available virtually in Pokémon GO in January 2021.

As a result, Pokémon GO players get the chance to dress their virtual avatars in t-shirts, hats and backpacks from The North Face x Gucci collections. The items are made available at over 100 PokéStops around the world, located at Gucci Pins, which are pop-up shops in select parks and stores.

Image credit: Gucci

Promoting local tourism

In its bid to encourage support for local tourism post-pandemic, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) collaborated with Niantic to showcase tourism offerings in Pokémon GO. The collaboration allows players to meet and capture Pokémon or engage in virtual raids with other players at up to 300 new PokéStops and gyms located at hotels, attractions, retailers, food and beverage establishments, and tour-ticketing booths across ten precincts in Singapore.

As players arrive at the designated PokéStops and gyms, they see in-app banners promoting the SingapoRediscovers campaign by STB. Tapping on the banner brings players to the campaign microsite, which displays the ongoing SingapoRediscovers promotions available at the tourism and lifestyle establishments.

The game encourages players to walk around and discover new things in their surroundings, which eventually will enable discovery of local businesses.

Image credit: Singapore Tourism Board

Planet-scale 3D map in the making

In June 2020, Niantic rolled out an opt-in feature to the Pokémon GO community called PokéStop Scanning. The feature allows players to contribute to building 3D maps of the locations of their favorite PokéStops and Gyms by walking around those locations and recording videos with their devices.

The videos submitted by gamers are used to generate dynamic 3D maps of PokéStop and gym locations. The machine-readable 3D maps give devices a better understanding of the depth and complexities of the real world. This also helps developers improve the game’s overall AR experiences by providing Pokémon with spatial and contextual awareness of their surroundings.

The Niantic Real World Platform will also allow third-party developers to leverage its AR technology to create their own games and software.

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