There’s no telling whether the hordes of Pokémon GO players will last beyond the game’s current 15 minutes of fame — or winter temperatures, for starters — but if there’s any truism to come out of the frenzy retailers have whipped themselves into trying to attract as many players as possible, it’s that the gamer crowd has some huge perceived buying power.
Admittedly, Pokémon GO and its soon-to-be retail affiliates don’t have a cut-and-dry way to monetize all this pedestrian energy, but that’s no reason to stop exploring ways how.
Especially if non-mobile brands, like Amazon, want to get their cut of the action, too.
The story starts in a seemingly unrelated place — HGTV and the Food Network selling more products online. Amazon announced recently that it had added functionality to allow Fire TV device users to purchase products appearing onscreen without leaving the viewing experience. Beth Lawrence, executive vice president of digital ad sales for HGTV and Food Network parent company, Scripps Networks Interactive, explained that the impetus behind the project was to reduce the wrinkles for users to buy through a nonstandard format.
“In the industry, we see many efforts to help consumers buy what they see and shop a second screen as result of TV viewing, but this is a huge jump in making it one seamless experience,” Lawrence said in a statement. “It’s gratifying to be on the cutting edge of this type of innovation, marrying the power of our lifestyle brands with Amazon’s popular Fire TV devices and shopping experience.”
It’s telling that Lawrence phrased the mashup as a marriage of brand power, if only because this particular instance doesn’t seem to be the homerun-type of deal that Amazon usually prefers making. There’s a chance that could be not too far away, though — an especially lucky fact if Amazon wants to capitalize on all this Pokémon GO popularity.
Amazon doesn’t own any games of that kind of sort, but it does own one of the gaming community’s most frequently visited video platform sites. Twitch has already scored similarly trend-heavy hits with streamed content and, ironically, a return of Bob Ross’ “The Joy of Painting.” And just in case lightning like that strikes Twitch again, Amazon has been grooming through green-colored glasses. A few weeks ago, Amazon added a microtransaction system to the Twitch platform called “Bits.” Nominally, it’s a way for active watchers to reward their favorite streamers in what Twitch dubbed “Cheering,” though the company also “leveraged Amazon’s payment technology so that we could make Cheering available sooner and with more features.”
“We’re working hard to make Bits and Cheering awesome, and that includes adding additional local payment methods and currency support in the future,” Twitch explained on its blog.
With the amount of views that Amazon’s gaming content platform pulls in, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to imagine the Bits system becoming something more fleshed out in the future, especially if Pokémon GO manages to monetize the evident power of its players. Furthermore, with the advances its made with HGTV and the Food Network on its Fire TV devices, Amazon has shown a willingness to pursue new ways of selling its inarguably vast catalog, wherever its customers are.
But then again, Pokémon GO, all its gamers and their spending dollars might just be the next flavor of the month. In that case, Amazon will have wasted its time laying the foundation of a transactional system on Twitch, right?
Not quite — not if it manages to make its name streaming other big-name video content with similarly engaged “fanbases” as well.