Companies have used video games as a means of advertisement since the 1970s, when McDonald’s was prominently placed in Atari’s Lunar Lander. It was then that the concept of “advergaming” was born. Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in this often-hidden form of publicity. But last month’s release of Pokemon Go has triggered a new, indirect form of revenue-generating activity that has helped the Salt Lake City’s bleeding Gateway District shopping center finally see a spike in visitors.
Rocket Fizz, the mall’s candy and soda shop, has been reported to see an overall increase of 30% in customers. “The Starbucks above us is a Pokestop. We haven’t had to do anything else,” a store clerk says.
The mobile game has integrated a real-world mapping system, designating local landmarks as Pokestops, places gamers can collect goods to help aid their quest of trapping Pokemon creatures found throughout the city. As such, players have flocked to downtown Salt Lake City to level-up and battle one another.
“The food court is insane. It was the busiest I’ve seen it in a long time,” adds a mall security guard.
Tricked out Accessories, a cell phone accessory store, had their biggest month this year within only a week of the game’s release, with chargers and charging cables flying off the rack. “I also had four repairs before noon today,” the store manager notes. “Repairs have gone through the roof. Yesterday was the highest day we’ve ever seen here.”
At the south end of the mall, GameStop has taken full advantage of nearby Pokestop at the Megaplex Theatre, and set up a “lure” outside the store to attract customers. Lures are 30-minute bait devices that attract Pokemon creatures to their location.
“Our Pokemon stock is nearly sold out,” a customer service rep explains, just as six Pokemon players enter his shop. “It’s been big. It’s also helped our pre-sell numbers on the next two Pokemon games.”
While quick-service businesses and Pokemon-relevant Gateway shops have seen an uptick in their numbers, not all stores report seeing much of a difference in spite of the new foot traffic. “It’s still pretty dead here ever since City Creek opened,” laments Journey’s Shoes–a store that was original to Gateway’s opening 14 years ago.
Even Hot Topic, which is one of the few places to purchase Pokemon gear, notes that the game has been “just okay” as far as attracting new customers. The store even placed a Pokemon sign out front to inform players of its products.
While it may only attract a certain type of customer, all stores note that there have been many more youths roaming around the mall than they’ve seen in some time. As the summer months wind down and the kids go back to school, perhaps new forms of creative luring could continue to revive the Gateway as its new owners, Vestar, re-imagine the mall as “a new social hub.”