The Pokemon Go craze is sweeping the globe. And corporations like McDonald’s look at children playing the game and see dollar signs.
The maker of Pokemon Go is now offering paid sponsorships to corporations that want to lure players to their stores. Already, every McDonald’s in Japan is a Pokemon Go hot spot. When children arrive at the store, they are enticed to buy Happy Meals with Pokemon Go toys inside.
This is outrageous.
Pokemon Go, produced by Niantic, Inc., is a location-based smartphone game where players visit specific real-world places — called PokeStops and Pokemon gyms — to capture and battle virtual Pokemon creatures. It’s already become one of the most popular cell phone apps of all time.
Niantic is choosing some PokeStops and gyms based on paid sponsorships. And surprise, surprise: McDonald’s is one of the first sponsors.
Children’s minds are still developing, and they are especially vulnerable to marketing tactics that blur the line between reality and fantasy. It is unacceptable to use a virtual game to physically get children in the door to sell them junk food. And it’s wrong to use a child’s location and gameplay to serve targeted ads.
All Pokemon Go players are required to provide their birthdate at sign-up. That means Niantic could easily identify and protect its young players.