‘Pokémon Go’ influencing Greensboro businesses

by Allison Stalberg

From Facebook to billboards, “Pokémon Go” is everywhere. Only two weeks old, more people have looked up “Pokémon Go” than porn according to Google Trends and it’s the top app in the iOS App Store.

Pokéstops have influenced “Pokémon Go” players to go to various sites to collect items, drop Pokémon lures and meet other players. These places are marked in the game’s GPS. Pokéstops are established at historical sites, churches, parks, museums, campuses and public artworks.

While some places are struggling to regain some privacy from wandering players, local businesses are utilizing the app as a marketing resource.

Greensboro developer Marty Kotis jumped on the opportunity.

“I got back from a trip to Japan and the trend was blowing up on “Pokémon Go” so when I was struggling through jet lag one night, at 1:30 in the morning I started up my ‘Pokémon Go’…. I thought to learn more about it, I should play it,” Kotis said.

With Pokéstops and gyms in and around places like Burger Warfare and The Marshall Free House, Kotis decided to take advantage of the app to draw in more customers.

“We’re using the lures to lure in customers so people will want to come in and hang out,” Kotis said.

Lures are items in the “Pokémon Go” app players can use to draw Pokémon to a Pokéstop. So instead of running around to find Pokémon, players can just stay at the Pokéstop with a lure and draw the Pokémon to them. The amount of lures you get in the game are limited however, and obtaining more costs money.

Kotis believes the lures are worth their small investment.

“The economics of that are you can buy a hundred dollars worth of coins. The cost for a lure, if you do that, is 85 cents per 30 minutes. So for an 11 hour segment, you are looking at $19. If you have two though, because we have two Pokémon stops, it’s twice that, $38 for a whole day’s worth while we are open.

“And that’s not much in the scheme of things for a cool benefit…because that’s the whole thing; you want to create a benefit that a lot of people can enjoy. So they can come in, have a beer, play some darts, catch some Pokémon, and enjoy those things at once.

“Today I saw someone parked out in front of our fire pit, so I think there are people who are exploring around and driving around. If you just have a Pokéstop somebody may drive by, spin the wheel, and move on. But if you have a lure, I think that creates more reason for them to stay, hang out and see what Pokémon come by.”

Businesses such as Geeksboro, The Corner Bar and the N.C. Zoo have created statuses to show their Pokéstops and gyms. Others, like the Little Akihabara Anime Shop, are thinking of applying to Niantic to make themselves a Pokéstop.

Not all businesses have Pokéstops, but that isn’t stopping them from joining the trend in their own way. Businesses like the Crafted: The Art of the Taco in Downtown Greensboro made up Pokémon and drew it on their street sign.

The sign reads “We have the rarest Pokémon ‘Tacochew,’ Pokédex #017, Type(s): lettuce, delicious. Height: 4 inches.”

“We just thought it would be fun to put that up,” said Crafted server Stephanie Griffaw. “We kind of came up with it together and came up with the Tacochew. We thought it would be funny. We actually have had a couple people coming in looking for that Pokémon but we just tell them we made it up, it doesn’t exist.”

Kotis believes “Pokémon Go” will likely evolve to encourage more of the social aspect like games have done in the past.

“What’s it’s not doing, it doesn’t alert people’s friends if they are checking in or playing somewhere. That would be the next generation of it I would think.”

He also found out that the app has a sister game called Ingress. The data in Ingress was used to create the Pokéstops that are so popular.

“In Ingress you went through and had these different elements you would check into or visit and then that made me curious what were those elements,” said Kotis. “It seems like in the private businesses like a restaurant or retail center, its things like outdoor columns, fire pits, murals, and in the case of Burger Warfare, the outdoor robot. Interesting architectural features.”

While Pokéstops are not just at stores, Kotis believes stores are the best place for players who want to have the most fun.

“It gets people out, so let’s say you’re at a Pokéstop, and there’s one nearby my house, it’s a fire station. You can go kind of lurk at the fire station which is a little bit creepy or look around a police department or a church or a cemetery or something like that, or you can go to someplace that’s interesting.

“At Marshalls, which in Ingress, we have four elements there and we got all these outdoor murals and fire pits and one of our two Pokéstops, which is pretty unheard of. You can sit in a restaurant and check in to both of these and almost check into the Gym that’s at our Burger Warfare project. So I think the impact will be people going out to play the game and deciding they don’t want to hang out in a parking lot and rather hang out in a restaurant or coffee shop and enjoy themselves while they are playing the game.”

Kotis believes that just one store using a lure or having a Pokéstop will also benefit the businesses located around the same range.

“In the Midtown area, there are like five million Pokéstops there because you’ve got so many businesses there,” Kotis said. “So when we do the Pokéstops at Marshall, it benefits Red Cinemas, the brewery and Burger Warfare is a gym so it really gets a lot of traffic.

“The only issue you have is people hanging out for a long time. It’s kind of like free Wi-Fi. But I think so far we’ve seen people be very respectful, they’re in there eating and drinking. They are not just only playing Pokémon and drinking water. They’re hanging out.” !