Pokemon Go causes surge in sales for batteries, chargers

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Pokemon Go causes surge in sales for batteries, chargers

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Despite its late release in Korea, the augmented reality game Pokemon Go is creating a boom to not only the game industry, but other business sectors as well.

The game launched in Korea on Jan. 25, six months after its initial release in the United States and was downloaded more than 10 million times as of Wednesday, according to Wiseapp, the marketing research firm for mobile apps.

The game is played across a wide age spectrum: 12.4 percent of entire users were in their 40s and those in their 50s also took up 3.7 percent of the pie. The simple game method - catching Pokemon by wandering with a smartphone - and the four-day long holidays that came right after the launch contributed to the success.

On the back of Pokemon Go’s success, other business sectors are benefitting from the boom. The game’s economic effect spurred the creation of a new coinword: Pokeconomy, a portmanteau of Pokemon and economics.

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Since the game was released, sales for smartphone charging services have risen 33 percent and charger sales are up 34.9 percent, according to the convenience store GS25. As the game is primarily played outdoors and consumes battery power, more gamers are stopping by convenience stores that provide charging services. Rival 7-Eleven even organized a set of “necessary items for Pokemon Go” comprising battery chargers, hot packs, triangular kimbap and beverages.

To catch a Pokemon, the user has to throw a game item called a Pokeball at it though the screen. Pokeballs can be obtained by passing by “Pokestops,” which are designated at famous landmarks, major buildings and subway stations. Cheil Worldwide’s headquarters in Itaewon, central Seoul, has three Pokestops and therefore became widely known among gamers to be a propitious site. Players who live near Pokestops or places where Pokemon frequently show up are deemed born winners of Pokemon Go.

Sokcho saw a similar economic revival last year as it was one of the only regions in Korea enabled to play the game. “The only way to revitalize a fading city in the past was to hope for a gold mine or oil well,” said CNN, adding that the virtual reality phenomenon to boost consumption had potential as a business model.

Skeptics, on the other hand, say Pokemon Go is but a trend that will soon cool down. In July, the game instantly garnered popularity among users in the United States and Australia upon release. However, such growth speed quickly disappeared by the end of the same month. Currently, its popularity in the United States and Japan is on the downfall.

On the flip side, incidents and illegal activities regarding Pokemon Go are already rising as a problem. The United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan is seeing more people cross closed entrances at night, as the venue has become popular for having many Pokemon inside the park. It is actually thinking of extending opening hours. The Gangwon Provincial Police Agency said Wednesday that it will enforce inspections on users that play the game while driving. Motorists can face a fine of 60,000 won ($52) and six penalty points for violating traffic laws on using a phone behind the wheel.

There are even postings on the internet that suggest to “catch Pokemon upon payment.” Game accounts that caught many Pokemon are even put on sale. Rare characters are sold at over 10,000 won per Pokemon.

An app that enables users to catch Pokemon by manipulating the phone’s GPS system is also on the rise. However, Pokemon Go’s developer Niantic said that “Once a user is spotted of frequently manipulating GPS, the company will conduct countermeasures such as permanently deleting his or her game account.”


BY HA SUN-YOUNG [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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