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Michael Ratajczyk

is a business professor at Saint Mary’s University.

As a teacher, data scientist, and closet game engine developer, I’m excited about what I believe is a new level and trend of mobile gaming.

I initially downloaded Pokémon GO to understand the latest game that my students would be playing this coming school year. Since its launch, I’ve been observing some of the activity from both a business and cultural perspective. (As an added bonus, I’ve made more than 15,000 steps a day while conducting my field research.)

The game itself is groundbreaking in terms of its use of mapping technology, and there’s no doubt its success will lead other developers to make games like it.

For many of us, imagine collecting baseball cards, excited to get Mickey Mantle or Ken Griffey Jr. Does anyone remember the Beanie Baby craze in the early 2000s? I remember droves of people waiting at Hallmark stores for the next shipment of the beanie animals. This game has that same energy and is breaking records.

For most mobile apps, there’s a significant uninstall rate in the first five days of the game’s entrance in the market. Pokémon GO is beating all those records and is still being used on a large number of devices. In fact, according to U.S. Android App data, the average game session in Pokémon GO is over 40 minutes. This beats WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Messenger, and over 60 percent of people that downloaded the app are using it daily. There’s over 75 million downloads, and on a recent trip to Finland, I learned that there are droves waiting to play there, too.

Years ago, we imagined our gaming society to be basement dwellers, Dungeons and Dragons dice wielders, and Super Mario aficionados. You were a nerd if you were a gamer. With the advent of the smart phone and mobile devices in general, it’s hip to play games on your mobile device now. It’s assumed most everyone has a game on their phone. As the gaming industry audience has changed, companies like Nintendo and Sony have responded — not to mention Microsoft and Sega, which is now a game publisher instead of a console developer.

The motive for businesses to get on the Pokémon GO wagon is clear.

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Businesses can tap into this game to bring in customers in a variety of ways. If a business has a PokéStop, they can add lures to attract Pokémon spawns, which in turn attracts players. In Winona, El Patron Mexican Restaurant, for example, has a PokéStop at its indoor fountain. This means that anyone in the restaurant can enjoy the prizes from the game while dining. A business like El Patron could add lure to their site, for a small fee, that spawns Pokémon for its customers. Other businesses can and are attracting customers through coupons that ask customers to bring in their phone to show their game. Contests could include showing rare Pokémon, or having timed events where customers show their journal to count the number of Pokémon caught in their business within a time frame. There’s news that McDonalds has partnered their stores in Japan with the game.

With all of this activity comes a significant amount of data for folks like me to be excited about.

As data scientists, my colleagues and I study every row of data about a person, their behaviors, their purchasing pattern, and other tidbits of information we call variables. We use this to predict behavior. In some cases, we predict crime and healthcare concerns. In others, we predict demand for products and services to help determine when and where to place them during your daily lives.

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With so much interest and player time in this game, there’s a wealth of geo data that can be used, such as how often and when you play the game, what you use for tools in the game, and the distance you travel when you play the game. Companies can often purchase this data, combine it with other sources and build a better picture of their customer base. This can lead to better products, attractive specials and lower prices.

There’s no predicting how long this craze will continue, but we can safely predict that Pokémon GO will spawn the next big technological craze, providing further opportunities to study big data, ultimately changing the climate of business and culture today.

It is my hope that developers will be sensitive about where they plot game courses and in designing an ethical game environment. But we as a society also must play an active role. We must continue to educate and be educated. Our children need to understand the dangers of these types of interactions. They also need be taught about proper etiquette and how to show respect during their gaming interactions. This isn’t new. Pokémon GO didn’t cause this. I believe it was rooted in our society before it was downloadable.

There’s no predicting how long this craze will continue, but we can safely predict that Pokémon GO will spawn the next big technological craze, providing further opportunities to study big data, ultimately changing the climate of business and culture today.

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* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Michael Ratajczyk is an assistant professor of business at Saint Mary’s University.

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