Since the popular smartphone game application “Pokemon GO” was launched in Japan on July 22, sales of related items are growing, giving Japanese businesses hope for the positive economic ripple effects dubbed “Pokenomics.” The unique features of the game that require players to go outdoors to find Pokemon have led to increased sales of such items as portable phone chargers, sunscreen, and onigiri rice balls that can be eaten while walking around.
Portable chargers have seen a steep rise in sales since the game’s launch because they are essential for Pokemon GO players to carry when they wander around outside in search of monsters. The players’ constant use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) on their smartphones consumes large amounts of electricity, making it necessary for users to carry battery chargers. According to Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera, two major electronics retailers, sales of battery charges on the first weekend after the launch were about seven times those of the same period last year. Customers formed lines to purchase charger at some stores.
Family Mart, a convenience store chain, reported double the amount of sales of chargers. They also sold 10% more onigiri, bread, and snacks. “These items are easy to eat while playing the game,” explained a company spokesperson. At Seven-Eleven convenience stores, sunscreen and insect repellant spray have also been popular items. A person from the company’s PR division said, “We assume these items were purchased by users for playing the game in parks and other outdoor locations in the hot sun.”
McDonald’s Japan is the first corporation in the world to team up with Pokemon GO. As a result, McDonald’s restaurants all over Japan have been designated as “Poke-Stops,” where players can acquire items to be used in the game. Its PR personnel said of the last seven days, “Many of our customers are enjoying playing Pokemon GO, especially in major cities.” Expectations for an increase in the number of customers are growing even before the data on the positive effects of Pokemon GO has been finalized.
Outside the retail industry as well, businesses pin hopes on Pokenomics. Murata Manufacturing Co. Executive Deputy President Yoshitaka Fujita expressed optimism during a presentation on July 28 about the financial results of the manufacturer of smartphone parts. “Cheaper smartphones don’t work very well (when playing the game),” he said. “Demand may increase for higher quality devices from customers who want to upgrade their phones for better performance.”
Some municipalities are looking into possibilities for taking advantage of the popular game in promoting tourism in their regions. The game is designed so that Pokemon show up everywhere. Tottori Prefecture Governor Shinji Hirai declared Tottori Sand Dunes a “free zone” for Pokemon GO players, saying, “The vast area of the dunes is an ideal place to enjoy the game without worrying about the dangers of walking around while looking at your smartphone.” Poke-Stops are selected from among world’s tourist spots and places of historical interest by Niantic Inc., the American company that developed the game. The company has been receiving many requests for Poke-Stop designation from municipalities and companies. A representative from Niantic’s Japan office says, “We are positively considering these requests,” indicating the possibility for future collaboration between Pokemon and local economies.
Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Chief Economist Toshihiro Nagahama says: “The positive economic effects will grow if more businesses team up with the game like McDonald’s has and more municipalities try to take advantage of the popularity of Pokemon GO to attract tourists.”