Exclusive: Niantic’s Refael Siregar on localizing Pokémon Go in India

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MediaBrief spoke with Rafael SiregarHead of APAC – Emerging Markets at Nianticto discuss the localization of Pokémon Go in Hindi for the Indian market, the gaming community in India, and the activation of more localized in-game events as well as offline community activities.

Talking about the market potential of Pokémon Go in India, Siregar explains the marketing strategies of Pokémon Go and underlines the importance of brand partnerships, localized content, and community outreach to tap into the Indian market.

Aiming to raise awareness through television shows and events, Siregar highlights Pokémon Go’s strong focus on partnerships with large companies to expand its reach in India. Keep reading.

How was Pokémon Go’s entry into the Indian market facilitated?

tThe Indian market is something that Niantic has always wanted to be a little more committed to. The growing number of mobile players in the region has made us see this area as a great opportunity to enter the market. Our first step here is to localize in Hindi; However, we recognize the diversity of Indian languages, so our next step will be to move towards more languages.

We are also planning in-game events tailored to Indian tastes, along with offline activations and partnerships. These are the first steps of our entry into the Indian market. Be sure to stay tuned for plenty more in the coming months.

How do you anticipate the localization of Pokémon Go and its market potential in India?

The Pokémon Company has a YouTube channel where they post episodes of Pokémon that you watched as a child, localized into Hindi with Hindi subtitles. That channel has one of the highest ratings in all regions of Asia when it comes to Pokémon episodes. This realization made us recognize the huge market potential for Pokémon Go localized in Hindi.

While English is widely spoken in India, we would only cover a small percentage of the market, mainly the educated population. One thing we researched and discovered is that a significant portion of mobile gamers come from rural areas.

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That’s where the majority of the gaming population is located. So, for maximum penetration, we decided to localize it in a language spoken by 57% of people.

While there are many metropolitan players playing Pokémon Go in India, similar to Indonesia where it seems the country is represented by the city bubble.

However, the tier two and three cities outside represent a large portion of the population and present many opportunities. Entering Hindi is our commitment and our way of accessing those markets.

What were some of the consumer insights Niantic discovered?

First, there was the case study we had with the Pokémon Company, watching the audience interact with the Hindi Pokémon episodes and the 3.6 million followers the channel gained.

The second part is to take advantage of tier two or three cities. The study that Google sent us on the portfolio of mobile game players showed that the majority of these players are not located in a key area but outside the city center.

We’ve also seen strong reception for an activation we’re running ahead of the launch of Pokémon Go in Hindi. We have been testing the market with offline community activations. We have some brand ambassadors who we empower and give them supplies for Pokémon activations during what we call a community day.

Community Day is one day a month when a rare Pokémon appears and that’s the only time you can catch it. So there is a big draw for consumers to come there.

To amplify and gauge how well it is received, we have brand ambassadors host events and take photos for us. We are seeing the participation of up to 200 to 300 people crowded into a park.

Additionally, we also offer a Google Play feature where if we have an event coming up and we want Pokemon Go to display on the top banner for a certain country when consumers open the app, we ask Google to do it. Every time we do that, India has one of the highest growth in user base.

This has pushed us to dedicate ourselves more to the Indian market.

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What are the marketing strategies that Niantic uses?

When we look at emerging markets, we have four pillars for marketing. First of all, we have partnerships with really big companies. While I can’t reveal it, there is a great partnership coming up in India. As a point of reference, in Indonesia, one of my other countries, we have a partnership with McDonald’s.

Secondly, it would be communal. Right now, we support over 26 cities across India with what we call a community day in a box. We send boxes to community groups with the requirements they need to host the group of people during our community day, once a month.

Third, live operations or in-game events. One of the events that had wide appeal was an event called The Festival of Color in March, which was a throwback in reference to the Holi celebration. Our user base almost doubled in India just because of that activation. And that’s something we learned in our markets.

Basically, people are very sensitive and in tune with a big brand like Pokémon Go, recognizing and appreciating their local culture. So, localized events are something we have planned.

Fourthly, big offline activations, of which we will have many across India over the next year.

We also have a localized ad that the team went to film in four different locations in rural India and which will be released on digital platforms.

How has the partnership between the Pokémon Company and Niantic evolved since its creation in 2016, and what role has it played in the success of Pokémon Go?

The Pokémon Company is the reason we are here. It is a collaboration between Niantic, the developer and the intellectual property owner. We have a very synergistic relationship, which means that Pokémon knowledge depends on Pokémon Go as a reference.

While Pokémon is best known for its handheld games, there are many countries around the world, including India, where these games are not officially released or distributed. Technically, Pokémon Go is the only official game in India where you can catch Pokémon.

Understanding that this is a country very focused on mobile gaming, Pokemon Go is very important for the Pokemon Company to spread awareness.

So there is an expanded plan that starts with learning about TV shows through Pokémon Go and events. That turns into merchandise sales and monetization later. So we build the awareness stage and help them with that.

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Tell us about the kind of partnerships Pokémon Go is expecting in India.

Pokemon Go is a game that has in-game infrastructure, meaning you can’t play it in your own room; There are what we call Pokestops, or points of interest (POI) that Pokémon generate.

So the ideal partner for us is one that has many points of interest that we can take advantage of, meaning that we can digitize these locations within our game and make the country more playable for our players.

An example of this is the agreement we have with McDonald’s in Indonesia. McDonald’s has more than 300 locations in Indonesia, which means we are introducing 300 more points of interest in our country to make it more playable for our players, in addition to all the marketing we are doing.

That’s why we want our partner to have other locations. We are looking at quick service restaurants like McDonald’s and KFC. We’re also looking at convenience stores like 7-Eleven. These are the notable partnerships we are looking for.

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