Come for the Pokémon, stay for the food. And the art.
Since its launch last week, over 5 million users have downloaded the mobile gaming app Pokémon GO. In the ensuing days, Pokémon fever has spread throughout Pittsburgh, and now local businesses are trying to attract players roaming the city in search of the next Meowth or Squirtle.
Based on the hugely popular Japanese card and video game franchise, Pokémon GO provides an “augmented reality” where players can find and capture Pokémon creatures in the real world using their smartphones. GPS enables players to search their surroundings whenever they receive notifications telling them a Pokémon is nearby. Much like in the original video game, they can also battle other players in designated places called gyms.
Businesses throughout the city have found ways to cash in on the phenomenon and provide a more entertaining experience for their customers. Even places as big as Rivers Casino have joined in on the fun by designating its amphitheater as a level six gym.
Dan Robinson, owner of the Kaleidoscope Cafe in Lawrenceville, has noticed the increased foot traffic outside his restaurant since it became a featured checkpoint in the game.
“There are people on the corner day and night,” says Robinson with a laugh.
Today, Robinson appealed to Pokémon GO players by offering a 10 percent off deal to those who show their apps. He says it will be available for the foreseeable future until they decide to remove the announcement from their Facebook page.
Scott Baker, a cook at the Kaleidoscope Cafe, started playing Pokémon GO the day after the game launched and agrees that it encourages people to leave their homes and explore their neighborhoods.
“It’s definitely getting a lot of people outside more,” says Baker. “From where I live, I can see about 20 or 30 people every hour just walking up and down the road playing it. I do the same thing.”
Savvy business owners can also pay a small fee to add a luring module, which makes their place of business a potential hunting ground for rare or valued Pokémon.
Brittany Hailer, an MFA Program Assistant at Chatham University, visited Biddle’s Escape in Regent Square after a fellow Pokémon GO player told her the coffee shop had a luring module.
“I hear there are Pikachus there, which is why I went,” says Hailer, referring to the beloved yellow cat-like creature that also serves as a symbol for the Pokémon company.
While Hailer didn’t find any Pikachus, she did find a spot to hang out and enjoy some delicious food and drink.
“We did order hummus and tea and sat out on the porch, and eventually ignored our phones,” says Hailer. “I literally said, I need to come here more often.”
It’s not just local business owners who have caught Pokémon fever. One of the region’s top cultural destinations, Carnegie Museum of Art, has just added a special Pokémon GO component to its popular, monthly Third Thursday event. The July 21st festivities from 8 to 11 p.m. will include a Pokémon GO training session and hunt. Representatives from New Dimension Comics will be on hand to provide helpful Pokémon GO tips and guide players through the museum’s galleries and exterior spaces, which are said to contain many Poke Stops and lures. Learn more about the event and buy tickets.