Niantic will soon open Pokemon GOs Sponsored Location system to small businesses

Sponsored locations arent new to Niantic games. Companies like Sprint, McDonalds, and AT&T have had sponsored locations in games like Pokemon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite for a long while now. The idea: by turning your business into a big in-game beacon and giving players some reason to stop by, you increase foot traffic.
So far, though, the sponsorship system has really only been open to these mega chains. Starbucks got to turn all of its stores into sponsored Pokestops at the height of the Pokemon GO craze, but the little mom-and-pop coffee shop down the street? No such luck.
Thatll change later this year, as the company opens a self-serve platform for small to medium sized businesses looking to light up sponsored locations in-game.
Details are still somewhat light, but Niantic says that theyll start accepting applications tomorrow and roll out an early access beta program later this year. As with pretty much everything Niantic does, theyre rolling it out on a region-by-region basis; in this case, itll only be open to US businesses at first. The first new sponsored locations should start showing up in December.
Sponsored locations tend to have slight perks over their non-sponsored counterparts. Sponsored gyms in Pokemon GO, for example, are almost always EX Raid locations which in GO speak just means that battling there might get you a ticket to a bigger, badder, invite-only boss battle in the weeks that follow. Sponsored fortresses in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite give out more XP and more of the spell energy required to play.
Beyond being able to pay to have a sponsored in-game location, these businesses will also be able to pay to schedule things like Pokemon GO raids (read: bigger, co-operative boss battles that often require 5-10 players working together to win) during time slots when foot traffic might be slow. And because getting foot traffic is only part of the equation, sponsored businesses will also be able to offer up deals and promotions in-game to (hopefully) turn those passing by into paying customers.
Niantic also says that businesses will be able to host other on site mini-games beyond GO raids in the future, but didnt elaborate on what those might be.
Alas, no details yet on how much sponsorships will actually, you know, cost.
Itll be interesting to see how this plays out, and how it impacts things in game. While Pokemon GO isnt the overwhelmingly popular monster of a game that it was at launch, it can still cause crowds to pop up out of nowhere particularly when new Pokemon appear as raid bosses, or when theyve got some limited time event going on. Will sponsoring a raid cause fewer raids nearby (to maximize visibility of the sponsored spot), or will more of them pop up nearby to hook groups looking to do multiple raids in one swoop?
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