The mobile game Pokémon Go has been grabbing the attention of young people ever since it was introduced last month, bringing together gamers in search of Pokémon characters, but could it also entice young employees and clients to the accounting firms that desperately need them?
The game resurrects Nintendo’s popular Pokémon video game characters of the 1990s and populates them in various spots in the real world through a technology known as “augmented reality,” where they can only be seen and captured by using a mobile app. Since the app developer Niantic launched the game in early July, it has reportedly been downloaded by more than 75 million iOS and Android users as of last week, and the number is no doubt higher by now.
The game has also attracted a fair share of criticism, blamed for luring users to dangerous and inappropriate places in search of the characters at so-called “PokéStops.” Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and the Auschwitz Memorial have banned Pokémon Go players from using their facilities to hunt down Pokémon characters. The game has also been faulted for luring unsuspecting victims into the hands of criminals who robbed them of their money and phones.
But there have been a lot of positives for the game too. Players have used it to explore their cities and towns, meet fellow gamers, get exercise outdoors, and have more fun this summer. Small businesses, such as restaurants and stores, have also used it to attract new customers. For a small fee, they can buy a Pokémon Lure module to set up a PokéStop to entice players or set up a Pokémon Gym where gamers can do battle amongst their collection of characters. (However, Niantic recently announced that it has stopped accepting requests for new PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms, although it is still engaging in partnerships.)
Just like small businesses, many accounting firms are also in search of clients and, just as important, young accountants who might want to work there. The talent shortage has been an increasing problem for many firms, particularly those in search of tech-savvy young people. Setting up a PokéStop might be one way to entice Millennials to their offices, even if the gamers are more interested in tracking down Pikachu than in preparing tax returns.
Once they get a foot in the door, the next step might be to get their contact information. Pokémon Go, when it was originally introduced, had some glaring security vulnerabilities in the iOS version of the app that could theoretically expose some users’ private documents and photos on Google Drive, as well as their email, to the developer. Niantic has supposedly fixed most of those bugs by now, but for those who haven’t updated their apps, it could theoretically be a way for a firm to get its hands on a potential candidate’s résumé, whether they intended to apply for a job or not! Of course, that’s not the ideal way to bring in job seekers and I wouldn’t recommend it. Way too sneaky, more befitting a crafty Pokémon character like the Sneasel.
But if a firm wants to build awareness, whether to attract new business as a provider of accounting and tax services or to compete for game-obsessed Millennials, creating a PokéStop or Pokémon Gym is not a bad way to get some attention during the summer doldrums. At least it beats the Yellow Pages these days, and it could make a firm seem more in tune with the times.
Do you see other potential uses for Pokémon Go by accounting firms?