Pokemon Go boosts foot traffic in malls
Key shopping malls in the metropolis are turning into huge playgrounds for people of all ages who brave inclement weather and heavy traffic just to catch a “Pokemon (pocket monster).”
A few days after the Philippine launch of Pokemon Go—a GPS-based augmented reality mobile game that challenges players to catch as many Pokemons as they can—mall operators reported a surge in foot traffic from people hooked on this game.
“Since the launch of Pokemon Go in the Philippines over the weekend, our parks and malls have filled with Pokemon hunters. Gamers continue to play and visit our malls despite the rains,” said head of marketing at Ayala Malls Maricris Bernardino, who cited the malls’ outdoor spaces for adding “excitement [to the hunt], as several unique Pokemon monsters were found in the gardens and parks.”
SM Supermalls senior vice president Steven Tan said as much: “Our malls are favorite hunting grounds for Pokemon Go trainers as we have a lot of sightings. It’s also a safe place to go and play this game.”
Within the SM chain, North Edsa, Megamall and Mall of Asia have seen the most significant increase in foot traffic given the number of Pokemon character sightings and numerous “Pokestops” and “gyms” located there, Tan said, referring to landmarks that a player must visit to catch a Pokemon, and the place where advanced players can form teams and battle the Pokemon of other trainers.
SM hosted on Friday night a nationwide Pokemon Go “lure” party across its 50 SM Supermalls and SMDC Properties, with each mall offering different kinds of freebies, Pokemon face painting and instant prizes.
But Robinsons Malls was the first to announce giveaways of gift certificates in the wake of the app launch, the mall’s marketing director Eunice Gonzalez said, adding Robinsons “had been anticipating the arrival of (the game) in the Philippines.”
Some of the identified gyms and Pokestops were found in Robinsons Galleria, Robinsons Magnolia, Forum Robinsons, Robinsons Place Iloilo and Robinsons Place Butuan.
Similarly, Eastwood City’s daily average foot traffic more than doubled last week due to the launch of the mobile game sensation, said Harold Brian Geronimo, assistant vice president at Megaworld Corp. He noted that Eastwood City had 19 Pokestops, with more than 20 kinds of Pokemons sighted in the area. Foot traffic was also higher last week at McKinley Hill, Burgos Circle and Venice Piazza, Geronimo said, adding that the effect was felt mostly on dining sales.
Technopreneur Nix Nolledo, who chairs technology firm Xurpas Inc. which also develops mobile games, said Pokemon Go developer Niantic Labs had a very interesting approach to the game, given that it doesn’t use too much telco data and relies mainly on GPS.
“[The Niantic guys] are very good in what they do with location-based type of data. That capability—augmented reality—has been a capability of smartphones for a long time. It’s just that Niantic was the first to create a global application that works,” Nolledo said.
Augmented reality is a technology that combines the real world with digital information and media, such as overlaying 3D models and videos of Pokemons in smartphones on a real-time basis.
Xurpas is happy about how Niantic—through Pokemon Go—had created awareness of mobile games. At present, Xurpas’ consumer applications are still reliant on internet data but this could change soon. “We’re looking at how best we can use the GPS chip in your phone as a way to generate value for the user,” Nolledo said.
Retailers are expected to benefit most from the mobile gaming sensation, as “Pokestops can be a very, very strong advertising platform if you’re a retailer,” Nolledo said.
But Pokemon Go remains a “very AB phenomenon,” and has yet to create ripples in the provinces, he said. In some places as well, it is not as welcome, he added, citing “universities, schools or even banks [where] there could be a disruption.”
Ramon Isberto, public affairs group head of telecom giant PLDT, said telecom firms also benefit from this mobile app through greater data usage. “Pokemon Go expands the space of games on the mobile phone,” he said.
PLDT’s wireless arm Smart Communications has offered unlimited data for Pokemon Go for seven days starting Aug. 8. Yesterday, PLDT chair Manny Pangilinan announced that the Free Pokemon Go for all Smart and TNT subscribers would be back from Aug.14 to Sept. 15. “You asked, we listened … No catch, no fine print,” Pangilinan said in a tweet message.
It has also tied up with SM to offer unlimited Pokemon Go data usage for its lure party.
Globe Telecom has also offered seven days of free mobile access to the game for Globe and TM subscribers. At the lure party held at Ayala Malls during the weekend, Ayala Malls teamed with with Globe, through Switch, which is exclusively launching free access to the game for one month at Ayala Malls’ lure parties.
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