Downtown Sac

Poké-mania descends upon #DowntownSac

Scott Ford

Whether you’ve downloaded the app and are scrambling to capture imaginary Pokémon or have simply observed some interesting Unknownbehavior around town, there’s no denying that “Pokémon Go Fever” has arrived in the capital city.

As you let the fever take hold, there is an inherent responsibility to promote reasonable awareness, but the positive activation of public space and seemingly limitless business opportunities associated with this augmented reality game are unprecedented.

Foot traffic is up 23% in Old Sacramento during a typically slow two-week period coinciding with the annual run of the California State Fair, and those engaged in the game are exploring the riverfront docks and specialty shops in search of elusive Pokémon characters. Thousands of people are filling the boardwalks during all hours of the day and well into the night. Locals are sharing the sentiment that they are rediscovering Old Sacramento and being introduced to the new merchants that have recently opened. Guests are being reminded of how enjoyable the district can be during the evenings, and despite the large crowds, no concerns have been raised over parking or public safety.  Old Sacramento District Director Brooksie Hughes calls it “one of the most compelling examples of urban activation and positive public play” that she has ever seen.

Businesses have taken notice and are responding with a wide range of promotions related to this surge in pedestrian traffic, and some merchants in Pokemon-rich areas are extending their hours and dropping digital lures to attract more visitors. Businesses who have found success engaging new clientele are reporting an increase in sales anywhere from 50% to 300%.

For those of us past our “Pokémon-searching, augmented-reality, app-playing prime” (like myself), here’s a quick overview of how it all works. The Pokémon Go app was released by game-maker Niantic for iOS and Android platforms on July 6 and has quickly become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. What sets the game apart is that it takes place in an augmented-reality of the real world. A player’s objective is to catch Pokémon, collect rewards from PokéStops, battle other users, and team up to defend territory.

Downtown Sacramento is filled with Pokémon hotspots, from Capitol Park to Cesar Chavez Plaza to the Old Sacramento riverfront, and Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 8.47.37 AMbusinesses throughout the district are finding creative ways to capitalize on the increased pedestrian activity. In Old Sacramento, merchants are creating Pokémon-related specials, sharing screen captures from the game on social media, and even creating charging stations to allow gamers to enjoy a prolonged experience are just some of the ways local businesses are working to accommodate this influx of new customers. Another way to guarantee engagement from the gaming community is by purchasing lures from the app, which attract Pokémon and, in turn, more potential customers.

Staying fluid and responding to market trends is imperative in business, and although we might not all understand what the craze is about, merchants are showing just how lucrative it can be to capitalize on this opportunity. As a precursor to the activity that soon will be associated with the opening of the Golden 1 Center, downtown Sacramento is getting a nice test run of just how positive the energy of an 18-hour city can be.