Businesses use 'Pokemon Go' to lure players

Businesses use 'Pokemon Go' to lure players

On a cloudy Saturday afternoon at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta, Sukanto was parking his motorcycle to take a break after circling the nearby area for almost an hour to fulfil his latest passenger's unfamiliar request.

"He told me to take him around Monas and Gambir Train Station as he wanted to catch Pokemon," Sukanto, driver of app-based motorcycle taxi service Grab Bike told The Jakarta Post. "I accepted the job because he promised me extra money, but man, that was really an exhausting trip."

Since its official launch in the US, Australia and New Zealand two weeks ago, the mobile game sensation Pokemon Go has turned millions of people around the world into Pokemon hunters and thousands of Jakartans have also caught the fever, although there has been no official release of the augmented reality game. As Pokemon Go users traverse the city to catch Pokemon, businesses have started using the app to attract customers.

Grab is one of the businesses that have noticed the tens of thousands of people using their phones to catch Pokemon in the capital. On Saturday, the app purchased several of the Pokemon Go in-game items known as "lures" and spread them in Monas. Each lure is able to attract Pokemon to it for 30 minutes.

The company also provided a Rp 5,000 (S$0.52) discount for each passenger using Grab Bike or its car taxi service Grab Car to Monas.

As the promotion circulated in social media and news outlets, that Saturday the national landmark turned into Pokemon hunting grounds with hundreds or even thousands of people wandering around, eyes glued to their smartphones, ready to toss their Pokeballs once a monster popped up on their screen.

"The lure really helped me to develop my Pokemon, I caught many rare monsters and my feet have started to ache," Rikang Soleh, who caught six Pokemon on Saturday, said, his gaze still fixed on his smartphone.

Pokemon Go, which sets players on a real-world hunt for elusive digital monsters they can catch via their phones, offers the experience of being a real Pokemon hunter. While it has yet to be officially launched here, the fever has hit the capital as many people downloaded the game through a back door and turned the city into hunting grounds.

Major home-improvement retailer Ace Hardware has also jumped on the bandwagon. Between July 16 and 30, the company is offering a free voucher to anyone who catches a Pokemon in any Ace Hardware store throughout the country.

Pungkas Riandika, Digital Marketing head of Ace Hardware operator Kawan Lama Retail, said the company would like to see Pokemon hunters throng to Ace Hardware stores during their opening hours, adding that they will receive a voucher after posting their catch on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

"We are not concerned if many people show up to the stores without purchasing anything, only to catch Pokemon. We want to invite them to play inside," he said.

While many businesses have started to ride the Pokemon craze, the latest digital innovation in civic duty, Qlue, has shown that Pokemon fever can also be used for the improvement of good governance.

Starting on Friday, the app is offering various prizes for residents who take pictures of particular areas in their neighborhood that need extra attention from the local administration, such as damaged roads or flooded areas. Qlue employees will then check the scene to make sure the filed report is valid.

"But don't forget the picture should be sent along with Pokemon on the screen," a Qlue official statement said.

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