Hundreds of players traveled across Mount Clemens and searched far and wide in the parking lot of St Peter’s Catholic Church for Pokémon.
For those of you who don’t know what Pokemon GO is, it’s a video game that allows players to collect digital creatures in the real world, players battle each other using Pokémon, and compete for bragging rights.
The Pokémon GO Food Truck Rally at the church was organized by Ethan Watkins. He says it was a bigger success that he imagined.
“I definitely was surprised; surprised by how many people showed up,” Watkins says. “But mostly just the friendliness and comradery of the entire crowd.”
The event started as just a plan for Pokémon Go players to get together.
“It kind of blew up. I went to bed with a few of my friends liking the page and committing to going, and then I shared it on one other forum and when I woke up, we had over 100 people.”
More than 100 people showed up at the event. And more than a dozen food trucks and other businesses sold meals and gave away prizes to players.
The Pokémon Go game uses augmented reality to bring the animated characters into the real world, making them available to catch in “pokeballs.” The game features checkpoints called Pokestops and Pokegyms at real locations – such as neighborhood markets or the Renaissance Center in Downtown Detroit.
Many businesses have been lucky enough to be one of these pokestops, attracting players to their location to collect in-game items and battle each other and maybe shop at their store.
But Pokestops alone may not be the only reason for the increase in patrons. Rallies and other events created by fellow Pokémon collectors have had an impact, too.
Since the games launched last month, Pokémon Go gatherings have been popping up all over the web, in one case prompting a pub crawl in Downtown Detroit.
The Checker Bar Detroit on Cadillac Square is a pokestop and was a site for one of the recent events. Co-owner David Gregory says since the launch of the game he has seen an increase in business.
“It so happens a bunch of our regulars already were playing,” Gregory says. “It added fun for some of the people that were already here but I’ve definitely seen an increase in new faces.”
And Gregory has taken advantage of the incoming traffic. The bar now offers two dollar shots for anyone who drops a Poké lure.
Family Video, a DVD rental shop in Mount Clemens, also has a few pokestop locations. The store is offering some free DVDs to players.
“If you come into the store and show that you are a Pokémon player you can get a free movie in our store,” says Beth Kerry, a District Manager for Family Video. “And if your team holds the nearest gym you get a new release rental for free.”
The game has even caught the attention of the AAA auto club which attended the rally in Mount Clemens.
“It’s huge right now, and there have been a lot of accidents,” says Carol Bellestri from AAA. “We just want to make sure that everyone is participating but in a safety manner as far as driving, there is supposed to be a designated driver I guess and just be careful walking around looking for them.”
Businesses benefit greatly from these gatherings. And event organizer Ethan Watkins says he’s planning another rally in August. He says he has already has restaurants reaching out to participate.
“We actually are talking with Buffalo Wild Wings. I got a call around nine am that next morning and I’m working with them,” Watkins says. “They’re going to be hopefully one of our large sponsors for the next event.”
The game began as just a medium that allows lovers of the Pokémon franchise to catch the pocket monsters in the real world. Now it’s leveled up into a social phenomenon that benefits businesses as well.
And if you can’t catch them all in Mount Clemens, there are more events –and more Pokémon –popping up across Metro Detroit.