Gaming while travelling: Fascinating facts and figures


  • Video games
  • Monday, 17 Feb 2020

Augmented reality games such as Harry Potter Wizards Unite gathers gamers together because they need to work as a team to battle in fortresses. — MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

Since its inception in 2016, the location-based AR mobile game Pokemon Go is estimated to have attracted 603 million gamers globally, according to Statista.

Last year, the game generated revenue of US$894mil (RM3.69bil) from 55 million downloads, an increase over the previous year. Its total revenue to date is US$3.1bil (RM12.82bil), according to Sensor Tower calculations.

The game is free to download and play on iOS and Android devices, but the cost comes from in-app purchases when gamers purchase in-game currency, dubbed Pokecoins, with real-world money. These Pokecoins are then used to buy items like raid passes (to take part in raids), incubators (to hatch eggs), potions and revives (to restore pokemons after battle), pokemon storage, item bag (to keep items), special item boxes and more.

A summary of the real-world events held by Niantic in 2019. — Niantic, IncA summary of the real-world events held by Niantic in 2019. — Niantic, Inc

Another location-based AR mobile game launched last year – Harry Potter Wizards Unite – brought in an estimated US$23mil (RM95.13mil) in player spending, according to Sensor Tower estimates.

Players can make in-app purchases for items such as vault extensions (storage space), potions and elixirs, dark detectors (to detect foundables), premium bundles and more.

But gamers are not just willing to spend money on in-app purchases – they’re also paying registration fees to participate in real-world events all over the world, as well as overseas travel costs for such events.

Some of the game events include Pokemon Go Fests in Dortmund, Germany (2019); Chicago, United States (2017-2019); and Yokohoma, Japan (2019); as well as Safari Zones in Montreal, Canada; Porto Alegre, Brazil; Taipei, Taiwan; and Singapore (2019).

While some events are currently free and players just need to make the necessary travel arrangements to get there, others are paid events which players need to register and purchase tickets for.

There was also the Harry Potter Fan Festival in Indianapolis, United States (2019) – its first real-world event since its inception last June.

There is an opportunity to increase tourism to a country through such events.

For the latest Pokemon Go Fest events, Niantic reported around 60,000 attendees to the Chicago event, 85,000 players in Dortmund and 150,000 players in Yokohama.

In 2017, Niantic started the first Safari Zone event in several locations in Europe, limiting the number of attendees – it was a failure. But the second Safari Zone in Tottori Japan was successful. According to the local government, 89,000 people attended the event and it generated around US$16mil (RM66.25mil) in travel and tourism revenue.

The first such gaming event in South-East Asia was Safari Zone Singapore in April last year. The five-day event was reported to be a success, with 95,000 enthusiastic attendees from all over the world visiting Sentosa Island, walking 441,000km and catching a total of 14.1 million Pokemon.

As for Harry Potter Wizards Unite, thousands of players from around the world converged in Indianapolis, USA for the first HPWU Fan Fest last year, and over two days, returned nearly two million foundables (the game is about ‘returning foundables’, similar to catching pokemons in Pokemon Go).

Niantic recently reported its real-world events in 2019 were successful, generating US$249mil (RM1.03bil) in tourism revenue across three cities: Chicago, USA; Dortmund, Germany; and Montreal, Canada.

Niantic also revealed that it hosted over 2.7 million attendees across 77 events held in 32 countries, and they walked 6.5 million km altogether. There were players from 60 countries across six continents attending (see chart at right).

For 2020, the first half of the year will see four Pokemon Go real-world events, with the most recent one held this earlier this month: the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Taichung.

The other three are: Pokemon Go Safari Zones in St Louis, USA (March), Liverpool UK (April) and Philadelphia, USA (May).

The second Harry Potter Wizards Unite Fan Festival will also take place this year but the dates have not yet been set.

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