It's not every day a customer comes screaming into your store. It's even more unusual when that results in a good thing.
That's exactly what happened to one downtown Mount Dora store owner last Friday. A regular customer excitedly notified Crissy Stile, owner of Barrel of Books and Games, that “Pokémon GO” featured her business as one of the “spots” to catch Pokémons, miniature animated monsters.
Say what? The game is an insanely popular mobile app that has 21 million active players daily combing the streets across the globe to catch the decades-old Pokémon characters. Think of it as a frenzied, digital scavenger hunt requiring a cell phone. The goal is for players to find each “spot” to catch different Pokémons with varying point values. Mount Dora has become a popular "Pokémon GO" location because there are in excess of 20 “spots” and 3 “gyms” in the small downtown area.
The historic Donnelly House is designated a “gym” where players go to “battle” for coins. Barrel of Books and Games had lures inside for two days so more Pokémons were lured to the store. As a result, players would come into the store and try to catch them.
Pokémon GO, currently the biggest mobile game in the U.S., has improved foot-traffic downtown in what would otherwise be its slow season. “It certainly has made people aware of our super-awesome store,” said Stiles, laughingly who also owns Alleyway Comics. “I probably saw about forty people playing today and on Saturday I’d say it was probably in the hundreds.”
The mobile app makes money by selling in-app purchases of coins to buy lures and other coveted items in the game.
National media has reported safety concerns about the app. The fear is pedestrians playing the game will be distracted from watching for cars and safety hazards as they scurry from spot to spot. Additionally, thieves have reportedly lured players to locations with the intent to rob, and it was yesterday today that one player found a loaded gun instead of a Pokémon.
One positive effect of Pokémon GO is that by utilizing Google Maps, the game rewards players with points for the distance walked. Then there’s the local benefit: players that stop in to The Coffee Branch Cafe on Fifth Avenue downtown will receive a 10% discount.
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