Whichever the case, CSA Research thinks that the franchise and its latest international rollout for Pokémon GO has five significant lessons for mobile game developers and digital marketing teams.
1. Recognise the limits of local markets
Beginning in the 1990’s, the people in charge of the Pokémon franchise decided to retain and trademark phrases such as “Pokémon,” “Gotta catch ‘em all,” and “Gotcha,” while transcreating the names of various “pocket monsters” to match their characteristics in local languages. For example, “Squirtle” in English becomes “Carapuce” in French.
The brand has also had to deal with blowback from dropping a language now and then. Almost every company will face these issues multiple times in their localisation journey, so be prepared to update your global content strategy as trends and preferences evolve in target markets.
2. Harness machine translation (MT) to support hyper-localisation
MT can support more than big volumes and tight turnaround times. Pokémon GO developers depend on it to provide translations that they can’t always foresee, for example, rendering of place names in local communities. The solution is not ideal in all circumstances, but many organisations now include it as an option in their multilingual content production models. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to consider it.
3. Don't ignore SEO and ASO while you prepare for new marketing opportunities
The team behind Pokémon GO’s current success may not yet recognise the need for app store optimisation (ASO), but you should. Fads come and go, but customers always need to be able to find you via search. At the same time, remain open to new marketing opportunities.
Not all companies will be able to immediately take advantage of “lures”, in-product promotions, or location sponsorships offered by augmented reality (AR). But one thing is for sure, AR, smartphones, wearables, and the Internet of Things haven’t been around long enough for marketers to figure out the best avenues for reaching and winning customers. Therefore, continue to monitor the space for new practices that make sense for your company.
4. Prepare for the down-times
It’s now summertime in the Northern hemisphere, so people are taking their holidays and students are on vacation. We’re not discounting the contribution of Pokémon fans in Australia and Latin America, but we hope that Niantic, The Pokémon Company, and Nintendo – the three companies collaborating to bring you Pokémon GO – are preparing for a time when the novelty of PokéStops and Gyms have worn off to the point that potential players in northern climates avoid putting on boots and gloves to brave cold winds and slush to chase hard-to-find Pokémon.
What is your company doing now to ensure that customers in local markets remain engaged with your products, and that you can attract new ones to safeguard future international revenue sources?
5. Get ready for new ways to deliver a global customer experience
Pokémon GO has placed augmented reality in the hands of millions of people around the world. At the same time, Google Cardboard offers virtual reality (VR) at a minimal price. These products, along with others, are building awareness of the capabilities of, and democratising access to, the two technologies.
With smartphones slipping into VR headsets to function as screen and processor, more companies will be able to use these solutions to give company tours, provide training, and to allow realistic test drives of their products. Language service providers should expect a new class of content to translate, with tech-savvy vendors perhaps even choosing to specialise in this area.
Is your organisation reviewing new international market opportunities? If so, study the road that Pikachu & Friends have taken over the last two and a half decades. How could you reinvent your intellectual property, or product, or processes to achieve more success? That’s what Nintendo did when it released the Pokémon characters to be used by partners in a whole new way.
Rebecca Ray is a senior analyst at CSA Research.