- A unit of McDonald's looks like it is about to become the first corporate retail sponsor of PokeStop locations in the stunningly successful Pokemon Go augmented reality mobile game as it launches in Japan this week, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- PokeStops are destinations where users collect virtual items within the Pokemon game. Such sponsorships would appear to follow the model Pokemon Go creator (and Google spin-out) Niantic established for its earlier mobile game Ingress, which had similar deal with McDonald's and other companies.
- Niantic, Pokemon and McDonald's all declined to comment for the WSJ story.
Pokemon hunters are set to storm the Golden Arches, at least in Japan. This arrangement should not come as a real surprise, given that Gizmodo and TechCrunch both speculated about it recently and that McDonald's also sponsored Niantic's earlier Ingress effort.
It's not clear yet whether or not this is a global sponsorship deal by McDonald's, or at least the first step toward a bigger deal, and until someone starts talking we may not get a solid grasp on the real significance of this first sponsorship.
However, this certainly will be a good first test how how well Pokemon Go's popularity can translate into real-world increases in foot traffic and sales for retailers. GameStop's sales doubled over the weekend in its 462 stores designated as PokeStops (destinations where users collect virtual items within the game). Other retailers and restaurants could quickly seek to jump into the Pokemon pool at the first sign of a spike in Quarter Pounder sales in Japan.
As we have noted, retailers should probably tread carefully, and make sure Pokemon Go's audience shares some sort of natural affinity for its products and store environment. But if Pokemon Go isn't a good fit, you can bet that many more retailers will now be watching the augmented reality game front very closely for games that appeal to their target customers.