Back in July of 2016, Pokémon GO launched in the United States and became an overnight sensation. The augmented reality app, available on iOS and Android, gained nearly 21 million US users within the first two weeks of its launch and about 147 million users today making it one of the most popular apps ever.
Players are encouraged to visit “Gyms” and “PokéStops”, powered by Google Maps, in order to catch Pokémon and collect items. Often, these points of interest are historical landmarks, cultural institutions, and even individual points-of-interests within museum galleries, zoos, and gardens. Now with the app.’s release of new pokémon, trading features, and quests it is still a valuable app for museums!
Boosts in Attendance!
The Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvania recently hosted a “Pay What You Wish” Pokémon GO meet-up, which reportedly boosted the museum’s attendance by 13% from the previous week, and 25% from the same time the year before.
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, FL has 15 PokéStops and two Gyms, making it a hotbed for Pokémon GO activity. In a single day, attendance at the Morikami reportedly jumped 25%.
The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, TX has seen an estimated 50% increase in its visitation in July, which is typically the museum’s slowest month. Young visitors can take advantage of the museum’s eight PokéStops and four Gyms for free.
How are Institutions Capitalizing on the Pokémon GO Craze?
Some institutions strategically incorporated the game into their existing visitor engagement strategies. The Dallas Arboretum in Texas is offering a Pokémon GO Guided Garden Trek that ties the game into an educational tour of the plants and animals on the grounds.
Institutions such as the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, OK, and the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, AZ have hosted special Pokémon meet-up events in collaboration with businesses in their communities. Each of these events have attracted hundreds of PokéVisitors.
Pokémon GO Worked in 2016, but Does it Still Engage Visitors Today?
Although having major initial success, Pokémon GO still has active engagement and is a global phenomenon. Niantic CEO John Hanke talks about the initial success, ““It was completely uncharted territory. The initial fervor, that global excitement around the game and the way it spread virally, globally, in such a short period of time. It was a new experience for all of us.” The app’s steady success gives museums insight into how they can use trendy games to draw in visitors.
Unlike in 2016 the app now accepts requests to create new gyms and stops, which is perfect for museums to consider investing in. The app also allows you to now move gyms and stops making the game easier to manage in tight gallery spaces and potentially advertise new exhibits.
Many museums are still using the app. to draw in visitors such as the Besser Museum in Alpena, MI, the Museum of Science in Boston, MA and the Chimei Museum in Tainan. Each of these museums takes an innovative approach to incorporating the game.
Is Pokémon GO a Trend for a New Age in Visitor Engagement?
Pokémon GO is providing cultural institutions with fruitful opportunities to reach out to a wider audience. This has been an especially powerful engagement tool for smaller institutions that are limited in their outreach and marketing budgets, and for institutions whose attendance dips in the summertime.
While the app continues to spread and gain popularity, it is still too early to tell how the game will impact attendance and more importantly genuine engagement in the long run. Nina Simon, the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in California recently said that “if we’re going to invest in [tools like Pokémon GO, that we do so in a way that unlocks meaning.”
It is no question that people love to have a digital element with them on their visits. Bert Castro, President and CEO of the Phoenix Zoo, acknowledges the fact that cell phones are already a normal part of the visitor experience. Why not tap into what already exists in most of your visitors’ back pockets?
It has been exciting to witness how quickly and creatively museums and public attractions have leveraged the Pokémon GO trend. The month of July demonstrated that as visitors continue to evolve, institutions are more and more willing to evolve with them. Only time will tell how sustainable the Pokémon GO phenomenon will be, but we are eager to see how the masses of “PokéVisitors” continue to interact with cultural spaces, and how institutions continue to respond, and what the next trend may be.
How are you encouraging deeper engagement among your PokéVisitors? With the rise in visitor interest in augmented reality and the ways in which it is enhancing the onsite experience, what can you do to quench their thirst?
Interested in learning about AR and VR benefits for your museum? Schedule a free consultation with Cuseum today!