What can Pokémon Go teach tech entrepreneurs?


South African app and tech entrepreneurs can glean a number of “curious and practical lessons” from the Pokémon Go phenomenon, according to Scott Zambonini, enterprise development manager at the Seda Nelson Mandela Bay ICT Incubator (SNII).

Zambonini believes the huge global success of Pokémon Go illustrates perfectly how the correct utilisation of modern technology and business strategy can result in commercial success.  

Pokémon Go is an example of how a successful product combines audience engagement, retention, virality, and monetisation, he says.

In  particular, Zambonini says the the innovative monetisation model Pokémon Go adopts is worth closer consideration.

“By permitting selective partners to become “sponsored locations” in the game, the sponsor or advertiser has the ability to use the game to lure real-world traffic to their business locations,” Zambonini says.

“The McDonalds partnership in Japan highlights one of the many alternative revenue streams the infancy-stage application is pursuing. In order to attract players to establishments, the fast food chain allows over 3,000 restaurants to become gaming locations for Pokémon Go.  It is a brilliant way of extending the McDonalds playground into the augmented reality universe,” he says.

“The rule then becomes, when designing an app, keep monetisation in mind.”

The success of Pokémon Go also shows that it is never too late to pivot, and reassess business offerings and models, Zambonini says.

While one of the creators of Pokémon Go, Nintendo, used to enjoy dominance as a gaming hardware provider, its most recent Wii U product failed to gain the same traction, he explains. This prompted Nintendo to reassess and look for new partnerships with companies with complementary competencies, such as Niantic Labs’ augmented reality (AR) work.

“Nintendo partnered with Niantic Labs to harness their AR core-competence in conjunction with the Pokémon IP and developed a mobile application, which achieved viral status by targeting an existing, dedicated community to drive widespread adoption,” Zambonini says.

Finally, Zambonini says a further lesson of the Pokémon Go phenomenon is its reliance on nostalgia, and existing audiences.

“The lesson here is simple:  make something old new, and don’t forget that loyal, old audiences from previous successful ventures are a captive market that can be rediscovered and reinvigorated through new product developments.”

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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