The Pokémon GO phenomenon has been sweeping the US and the world. The augmented reality game app set a new Apple record for most downloads – 7.2 million – within its first week on the App Store. Between 5 million and 25 million people in the US have played Pokémon GO, and the app boasts more daily engagement than Twitter and Facebook. Nintendo, even though not directly involved in the game (Pokémon GO was developed by Niantic), broke a Tokyo Stock Price Index record for biggest daily turnover and share price has increased 70%.
Businesses small and large see opportunity in the Pokémon GO sensation. Local restaurants and retail stores can set up a paid lure (a signal to players that a Pokemon can be found at their establishment) for a small hourly rate. More than 3,000 McDonald's restaurants in Japan have been turned into Pokémon gyms, (gathering places for those who want to upgrade their Pokemon by fighting against fellow players). Local establishments are using social media to publicize nearby Pokémon sightings, hoping to attract more business. For $20 an hour, entrepreneurial gamers will continue the quest to "catch 'em all" for those stuck at their jobs IRL (Christian Science Monitor, 7/25/16).
One big business to quickly jump on the Pokémon GO bandwagon was T-Mobile and CEO John Legere. For a limited time, customers can claim a special reward to play Pokémon GO without diminishing their monthly T-Mobile data allowance (Forbes, 7/14/16). Six Flags America entices gamers into its amusement park with 30 PokéStops and four gyms, but warns players of the dangers of collecting Pokémon on rides.
It's all fun and games until someone PokéStops working and loses a job. According to a Forbes poll, 69% of Pokémon GO users play while on the job. Many managers are concerned about lost productivity and employees' lack of focus. After all, there are news stories of PokéPlayers suffering bodily harm while absorbed in the game. After a near accident at a Boeing plant, the safety-conscious airplane manufacturer banned using mobile devices while walking and removed the Pokémon GO app from all company-owned devices. Another manager's warning note to a Pokémon-obsessed employee went viral. But one CEO in the Netherlands took the opposite tack and made it mandatory for employees to play at least 30 minutes each day – for health reasons.
Unlike other office time-wasters like Facebook and Words with Friends, employees must leave their desks to participate. An extended "Pokin' break" could be replacing the smoking break. Obsessed gamers may Pokémon GO too far – literally – to catch 'em all.
Readers, how are you dealing with disruption in the workplace because of Pokemon GO? Comment and let us know!