Pokemon Go-Vid: Niantic, Inc. Launches Local Business Recovery Initiative

Pokemon Go, Niantic Local Business Recovery Initiative 
NIANTIC INC

I’m sure many of you have felt the same heartache I have as you hear about another local favorite restaurant or shop closing their doors for good due to Covid-19. Every day that the virus lingers and the world stays locked down is another day of lost revenue for small businesses. Millions of people are taking refuge from the pandemic by staying home and avoiding unnecessary trips. Small businesses across America are suffering financially from the coronavirus restrictions.

Main Street America recently surveyed the impacts of the Coronavirus on small businesses to understand better the continued challenges they face as this crisis evolves. The results were devastating. By Main Street’s calculations, out of the approximately 30 million small businesses, nearly 7.5 million may be at risk of closing permanently over the coming five months. They estimate 35.7 million Americans employed by these businesses are now at risk of unemployment. Pokemon Go developer Niantic is doing its part to help.

In the world, we must defend!

Niantic Twitter
 TWITTER

On June 15, Niantic launched a local business recovery initiative, in which it will give aid to 1,000 small businesses across the globe by transforming them into Pokestops and Gyms. Open to businesses in Great Britain, Mexico, Japan, Canada and the United States, players may nominate their favorite local business for consideration. Each business chosen will be able to use Niantic’s location-based tools to run campaigns and engage with the community.

In the nomination process, the user must describe what that particular business means to them and how that business impacts the community. If chosen, that business can utilize this opportunity as a marketing tool, by running campaigns and engaging with the community. “For example, a local restaurant or favorite bookstore can use the recovery initiative to build awareness of their business and product offerings,” Niantic said. This idea is something many stores could use at this moment. I hope this initiative will spark some creative ideas in other gaming and tech companies. Perhaps Jurassic World Alive or Niantic’s other augmented reality game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, will do something similar soon. 

While organizations like Main Street America are advocating Congress for $100M to be included in an upcoming stimulus to sustain and expand the essential work of business leaders in every corner of the country, you too now have an opportunity to make a difference “in a world, we must defend!” Admit it, you sang that out loud.

You can find out the Small Businesses Impact of COVID-19 in your town here. If you know a small business that means a lot to you, then give them some extra support by nominating them. To nominate the small business of your choice, click here. Then, go in, purchase their products, and post up with your buddies as you catch and evolve your Pokemon. This is the type of advocacy that will keep small businesses motivated through these lean times. By the way, totally feel free to nominate my favorite Tex-Mex joint, Enchiladas Y Mas, and give them some extra support (nudge, nudge).

OG Pokemon theme singer, Jason Paige, states in his Pokémon Go Tribute Song, “The worlds uniting. Heal it. Every stop, another lesson learned. It’s your turn to train your way to the top. Together we’ll never stop.” Those lyrics couldn’t be more spot-on with how all of us, myself included, will use Pokemon Go to unite one another. Together we can evolve for the better. (You can watch the music video here and purchase his tribute song on his website in support)

Nominations will close on July 31, as Niantic hopes to begin onboarding the chosen businesses “as early as September.” Niantic has proven that augmented reality games can become an innovative strategy for attracting customers and expanding marketing campaigns within local communities. Here’s to hoping this adds a healthy sum of “Pokecoins” to your supported small business!

Gotta catch ’em all!

Unrelated to the small business initiative, Nintendo’s & The Pokemon Company’s online stream also introduced a series of exciting upcoming releases for fans of the franchise, including an expansion for Pokémon Sword and Shield and Pokemon Unite, which I won’t get into in this review. Among the more significant news were the announcements of Pokémon Smile, the integrations of Mega-Evolution Pokémon into Pokemon Go, Pokemon Go Fest 2020 and the New Pokémon Snap. Let’s dive deeper.

Pokemon Smile
 THE POKEMON COMPANY

Brushing your teeth is dull and can feel like it takes forever. This can be especially true when you’re a kid. Pokémon Smile looks to change all that by turning the tedious chore into a fun quest to fill a Pokedex. When opening Pokémon Smile, the app asks for your location and demographic information: country of origin, date of birth, and gender. The mobile app makes use of the front-facing camera on your mobile device. After you set up a simple profile and give it permission to access your camera, you can begin. You set the front-facing camera towards you, start brushing your teeth, and the app seemingly uses a tracking method to gauge how well you’re following the necessary prompts given. You begin choosing your starter Pokémon, which are the original four: Pikachu, Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle. After this, the Pokémon of your choice is seen at the bottom of the screen in a cartoon and kid-friendly illustration. You can also wear your chosen Pokemon as a type of comedy hat via a photo filter. You can watch the trailer here.

During the brushing process, your Pokémon is trapped under the purple goop of bacteria. If you can successfully brush your teeth, it should satisfy the Pokémon, freeing it from the bacteria, so you have a chance to catch it once finished cleaning. Unfortunately, you are not guaranteed a successful catch. I hope this changes, so there are more opportunities to catch all of the 151 first-generation Pokemon included in the app. As I brushed my teeth with the app, positive affirmations continually prompted me on a job well done. You know kids, they need constant reassurance that they are doing a good job or there goes the fun. 

I have yet to see if the Pokemon change depending on the time you brush your teeth, such as Pidgey (the first Pokémon I caught) during the day and perhaps Gastly at night. For now, Charmander and I are back together like the good old days. This time, we’re fighting plaque.

Our courage will pull us through!

Pokemon Go Fest 2020 
NIANTIC INC

Pokemon Go Fest will be returning on July 25th and 26th via a global virtual experience due to Covid-19. The fest introduces unique elements, including the addition of habitats. These virtual environments are home to certain types of Pokemon and will rotate every hour. There will be five different habitats: water, grass, fire, friendship, and battle. Tickets are available for $15 (USD) to purchase from Pokémon Go’s in-game store. Like usual, preceding the release of the Pokemon Go Fest, there will be a series of Research Challenges that all players can complete, even if they did not purchase a Fest ticket. Concluding these challenges will unlock a Mythical Pokemon during the weekend of the Pokémon Go event.

Pokemon Mega-Evolutions 
NIANTIC, INC

Pokémon Go is adding Mega Evolutions to the mobile game later this year. I knew it was just a matter of time before we saw the sixth generation Pokémon from the Kalos region, where the mega-evolutions added in Pokemon X and Y originated. The Pokemon Company announced this unique mechanic during its big Pokemon event in June. “Mega Evolution is coming to Pokemon Go,” said Tsunekazu Ishihara, president and CEO of The Pokemon Company. “We’re working to deliver a new take on Mega Evolution that is enhanced by Pokemon Go’s unique gameplay. I hope you look forward to meeting Mega-Evolved Pokemon.” 

For those that do not know, Mega-evolution is an additional evolution mid-battle that makes the strongest of Pokemon even more powerful and changes their appearance. Usually, this happens from a Mega Stone or KeyStone, but it’s unclear how the format will look. At least The Pokemon Company has a new, featured plan for the game. As of now, there is no set timeframe for that new mechanic, but I assume sometime in the Fall or Winter of 2020.

Come with me, the time is right!

New Pokemon Snap
 THE POKEMON COMPANY

The Pokemon Company and Nintendo have officially announced New Pokemon Snap for Nintendo Switch, a brand-new experience based on the original Nintendo 64’s Pokemon Snap from 1999. Remember taking a trip to Blockbuster Video to print out your Pokemon Snap and Pokemon Stadium photos? Ah, the good old days. Begged for by fans for years, the well-received spin-off takes you to new and familiar islands, including jungles and beaches. As before, the game will take trainers on an adventure to multiple islands where they can research various Pokemon while taking pictures in their natural habitats. The game also brings back familiar, nostalgic elements from the original game, including riding in specialized vehicles that fit the environment while using Poke balls and apples to lure Pokemon. Players will use the photos of their choice to create a unique “Photodex,” like in the original Pokemon Snap, which the company says will bring “new, never-before-seen Pokemon expressions and behaviors.” The New Pokemon Snap is still under development by Bandai Namco Studios, with currently no release date. You can watch the trailer for the highly anticipated Nintendo Switch game here.

With a plan to assist local communities across the globe and exciting new features and games coming soon, Pokemon Go is sure to continue growing as a popular game for people of all ages. Whether you’re a 90’s kid like me, or just discovering Pokemon, I hope you take time to enjoy all the exciting things Niantic has to offer while protecting local businesses near you.

Moor Insights & Strategy’s video game and tech reviewer Zane Pickett lives in Austin, Texas. He is a lover of all things psychological horror and Star Wars based while possessing an unhealthy knowledge of serial killers and Kingdom Hearts. When not writing, he works as Moor Insights & Strategy’s Operation’s Manager.

Follow me on Twitter: @Zanepickett37

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.