After augmented reality video game Pokémon GO officially added on Monday “select Pokémon originally discovered in the Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver video games” to its hugely popular app, last week’s news of Starbucks and Sprint stores becoming PokéStops makes for an impressively tidy display of corporate orchestration.
The way this works is simple: Even if future updates to the game produce only a fraction of the intense spotlight seen back in the summer of 2016, that’s still a hefty amount of foot traffic that can’t be ignored. Given the official wording from a Pokémon GO press release, it sounds like there will be chunks of Pokémon released throughout 2017, assuming not every pocket monster from the second generation of games can be hatched from eggs right at this very moment. In fact, this uncertainty only makes selling sponsored PokéStops to retailers that much more savvy.
Is Miltank available? What about Marill, Generation 2’s equivalent of a Water-type Pikachu? How about Mareep, the adorable Electric-type sheep? Leaving the possibility that all these and more can be found right now is only going to drive folks to get out there and play rather than declaring when and where they’ll release. Togepi and Pichu are there to whet our whistles, but the big question marks are the important thing to remember.
There’s no way both Sprint and Starbucks were unaware of what today’s announcement would entail when they were pitched on essentially buying places for people to play the game at. The only way to get eggs is by activating PokStops, and there’s no telling exactly what you’ve caught before the egg hatches — which can take walking five kilometers or more to accomplish. Starbucks might naturally see a similar level of customers, but one can only imagine that Sprint stores will see a dramatic increase.
All that thanks to the addition of a little digital flag inside an augmented reality game with the Pokémon branding slapped on. The real-world implications of this amounts to some charging stations (that Sprint likely already had somewhere) and Starbucks promising to make a special drink out of ingredients the stores keep on hand anyways. And now lapsed and new players alike will be making a pilgrimage to those physical locations despite it all.
That’s not to say eggs can’t be grabbed from other stops. They definitely can. But, for example, 10,500 Sprint stores that couldn’t take advantage of this update earlier in the year will reap the benefits now. What looks to be a staggered release of all the Pokémon from Pokémon Gold and Silver doesn’t fundamentally change Pokémon GO as a game, but Niantic’s certainly produced a digital bottle of ‘90s nostalgia and is selling it to the highest bidder.