Pokemon Go players are crawling all over Southwest Florida, staring at their phones as they play the hugely popular game and hunt for imaginary monsters.
Now local businesses and organizations are joining the Pokemon craze and trying to attract those players.
Their goal: They gotta catch ’em all.
“I definitely think it’s a great opportunity,” says Niki Greer of the Alliance for the Arts, which plans a Pokemon for the Arts Lure Event this Saturday during its weekly GreenMarket . “We thought it would be a great way to draw people in.”
The Pokemon Go app became an instant hit after being released on July 7. More than 21 million people play the augmented-reality game every day, making it the most popular mobile game ever, according to SurveyMonkey. The free app is more popular than Twitter.
Pokemon, Pokemon everywhere in Southwest Florida
The game has been a marketing goldmine for local businesses, nonprofits and other organizations. At least nine events are happening in Southwest Florida, and more are no doubt in the works.
Downtown Fort Myers plans a Pokemon Go Bar Crawl this Saturday night, for example, and downtown Cape Coral has scheduled its own all-day crawl for Aug. 27. Edison & Ford Winter Estates is offering special tickets next week for people who want to search for Pokemon on the museum’s riverside grounds. And even the Punta Gorda Police Department is joining the fun: Officers are offering free reflective vests and blinking lights to help protect people hunting at night for Pokemon.
Naples Zoo held one of Southwest Florida’s first Pokemon events on July 15, and now it plans to hold another one on July 30. To entice players, the zoo dropped Lures all over the zoo grounds for its first Lure Alert Day. The in-game devices attract Pokemon monsters and the players trying to catch them.
The result: About 350 more people than usual showed up that day — and more would have likely come if the event hadn’t been rained out that afternoon, says zoo spokeswoman Courtney Jolly Goff.
“That was amazing for us,” Jolly Goff says. “You have to take advantage of opportunities like this.”
The game superimposes imaginary monsters and locations on the real world using your cell phone’s camera and GPS. Players — called “trainers” within the game — travel to different places to find and capture the beasts, get supplies at “Pokestops” and battle their creatures at places called gyms.
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Greer says she loves the game and that’s one reason she wants to bring fellow trainers to the Alliance for the Arts this Saturday.
“I just love the whole idea of the app,” says Greer, guest services coordinator for the Alliance for the Arts. “I’m 24, and I grew up with this. It’s something I remember as a kid.
“Now it’s getting me out and making me walk around. I’m walking three or four miles every day. And I’m talking to people I never would have even thought about talking to on the street.”
Many of those players are showing up at hundreds of Pokestops and gyms scattered throughout Southwest Florida. Those spots were preselected by game maker Niantic.
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Some businesses and organizations are drawing even more people by dropping Lures on their property. And here’s the best part: Most of these events are dirt-cheap for their organizers.
Marketing campaigns can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But Naples Zoo and the Alliance for the Arts paid a mere $10-$12 to plant Lures all day long. Not a bad investment, especially considering that many players are probably buying things while they’re visiting places. Most of those 350 extra Naples Zoo visitors, for example, paid regular park admission of $14.95-$19.95.
“It was just fun to see a different demographic,” Jolly Goff says. “Some of these people typically wouldn’t be coming to the zoo.”
Some groups aren’t even paying for the Lures. They’re simply using press releases and Facebook posts to alert players that their spot is also teeming with Pokemon. That’s what Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary did, for example. The Naples sanctuary and its 2.25-mile boardwalk are home to four gyms and 20 Pokestops, according to the sanctuary press release.
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Spokeswoman Beth Preddy says many sanctuary employees didn’t even know the place was a Pokemon hot spot until players started showing up.
“Once we found out about it, we were kind of astonished and delighted at the same time,” Preddy said. “We thought: ‘How great!’ It’s getting people outside and out into nature.
“It’s gotten people to Corkscrew. That’s our mission: To bring people in and educate them about our conservation mission. It’s such a great tool.”
Pokemon events coming up in Southwest Florida:
Pokemon Go Bar Crawl: Starts at 7 p.m. Saturday in downtown Fort Myers. Meet fellow gamers and search for Pokemon as you travel from bar to bar. facebook.com/groups/1148755238531627
Pokemon for the Arts Lure Event: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday during the GreenMarket at the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers. Organizers will deploy Lures and offer free goodies and a drawing contest. 939-2787 or artinlee.org
Pokemon Go Event: Now through July 31. Edison & Ford Winter Estates is offering special tickets for players who want to take advantage of its gym and 12 Pokestops. Tickets are $10 ($5 for children 11 and younger) and allow you to roam all over the outdoor river side of property (it doesn’t include the museum building, laboratory or tours). Buy tickets in the lobby at The Marina at Edison Ford in downtown Fort Myers. 334-7419 or edisonfordwinterestates.org
Paint Your Own Pokemon Party: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, July 28. Make a painting of your favorite Pokemon character. Plus trivia and prizes. $30. Masterpiece Mixers Paint & Party in Cape Coral. 333-6820 or masterpiecemixerscapecoral.com
Naples Zoo Pokemon Go Meet-Up: All day Saturday, July 30. Naples Zoo drops Lures all over the park to attract Pokemon. Meet up with fellow “trainers” and catch as many Pokemon as you can. Free with regular park admission. Players can also take screen shots of their captured Pokemon and submit them to a Pokemon Go photo contest. 262-5409 or napleszoo.org
Pokemon Lure Party: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 30. Naples Depot Museum drops Lures and offers Pokemon-themed activities and a scavenger hunt. 252-8476
South Cape Pokemon Go Crawl: 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday, Aug. 27. South Cape Coral bars, restaurants and other businesses will set up Lures and offer discounted items such as specialty drinks. Wristbands are $5 and available at participating locations. More details will be announced later. facebook.com/events/153086508431003
Pokemon Lure Party: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. Immokalee Pioneer Museum drops Lures and offers Pokemon-themed activities and a scavenger hunt. 252-8476
Free reflective vests and flashing lights: To help protect people hunting for Pokemon at night, the Punta Gorda Police Department is handing out these free items at its headquarters. 941-639-4111 or puntagordapolice.com