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Pokémon May Be Silly But It's Having A Serious Effect On Real Estate

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You can’t escape them. Not even on a (somewhat) serious commercial real estate news site like Bisnow. Not even on the front lines of the war against ISIS. Pokémon are everywhere. In just a week, a new Pokémon app using GPS-based technology from Niantic has created a slew of new opportunities and problems for property owners around the world.


In the simplest terms, Pokémon GO uses your phone's GPS and clock to detect where you are and makes Pokémon "appear" around you so you can use your phone’s camera to "catch" them. As you move around, different types of Pokémon will appear depending on the area. The idea is to encourage people to travel around the real world, interacting with it in what is known as an augmented reality game. The app's popularity and potential for driving foot traffic is unprecedented. 


Business owners felt the impact of the game immediately. Because the game uses GPS technology, players looking to take advantage of what are known as “Pokéstops” and “Poké Gyms” must actually go to those places, often at a business or in highly trafficked areas. Some businesses have already had enough and have resorted to reserving Pokémon for paying customers only. 

Other business are embracing the opportunity. An indie clothing store in Salt Lake City posted the sign above beckoning people to come inside, get some Pokéballs and check out its items. Crystals Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AK, quickly figured out it had a number of Pokéstops throughout the museum ground. The museum took to its blog to alert Pokémon hunters to the presence of Pokémon with a fun picture series, attracting Pokémon hunters and art enthusiasts alike. 


Bars and restaurants around the country are benefiting the most as patrons stop in to collect the Pokéstop or battle at the gym. In our modern age of entertainment, a handheld GPS game can attract customers just like a sporting event or a quiz night. In nearly every major metro area, there are already Pokémon Go pub crawls and meetups being planned. (Thousands of Chicagoans are meeting at the Bean Sunday night, for example.) For businesses that want to increase their naturally occurring Pokétraffic, there are plenty of opportunities in the app to drive customers into your store. The game sells  "Lure Modules” that attract Pokémon to a 500-meter radius around a particular Pokéstop for 30 minutes. If your store is within the bounds of a Pokéstop, purchasing a lure module during downtime may be an effective way to increase business. (If people will kayak into the ocean to find Pokémon, getting them to your ice cream shop shouldn't be too hard.)


Have I lost you at this point? Does all of this sound ridiculously silly? It shouldn’t. In just a week, Pokémon GO is already set to outpace Twitter in daily active users. That’s serious reach. Nintendo, which owns the Pokémon IP, has seen its stock grow by nearly $11B, 25% in just a week.  

It’s not all good news though. One man’s church-turned-home was designated a gym, and he’s counted dozens of people around his house every day. Washington State’s Department of Transportation felt issuing a warning about playing Pokémon GO and driving was prudent. A children’s hospital in Ohio has cautioned staff to keep an eye out for people exploring restricted areas in search of Pokémon. In one case, Pokémon hunting led a young woman to an actual dead body. Criminals are also starting to see opportunity in the popularity of Pokéstops. Police in O’Fallon, MO, believe four suspects used the app to set up a string of armed robberies. People have pointed out how easy it is to case a location for future robbery under the guise of Pokémon hunting.

Pokemon GO

It’s too early to tell the lasting effects of Pokémon GO. The app is riding a massive wave of popularity built on years of dedicated Pokémon fans. Like Uber, Twitter and countless other tech innovations, the app has created opportunity. It’s up to each business and property owner to decide how best to handle it. 

Learn more about technology's impact on Houston real estate at Bisnow's Houston Future Of RE Tech event on July 28.