Societe Dubai’s Pokemon Go party: catch em all before the theme nights craze passes over
The rash of themed “Pokémon parties” and promotions breaking out across the emirates offers a perplexing example of the real world encroaching on the virtual realm.
Three weeks since the launch of mobile phone game Pokémon Go — and before an official UAE release — smart-minded clubs and restaurants have leapt, with varying degrees of success, onto the global craze, which has attracted an estimated 75 million players worldwide.
Thursday night saw club Societe Dubai host a themed party, offering guests the chance to rub shoulders with other players in a friendly environment, where spending an evening glued to your phone might actually be deemed as socially acceptable behaviour.
The venue was registered as a “PokéStop”, a hub to help attract the virtual animals which the game requires players to “find” on their camera-phone screens, using GPS technology.
However while we spotted plenty of heads buried in smartphones, most were seemingly busy with the more pedestrian pursuits of networking through WhatsApp and Facebook. Despite the club’s invitation to “replenish your stock of poke balls, eggs, and potions” it wasn’t clear how many, if indeed any, guests were actually playing the game.
A promised “giant ball pit” on the dance floor turned out to be what looked like a child’s paddling pool, packed with Pokémon toys and prizes. However by midnight the feature had been tactfully removed from the dance floor — apparently after one overzealous punter jumped in and tore the sides, prompting a ball-fight among revellers.
Sadly we missed that — another thrilling example of the physical world trumping the virtual.
Early in the evening, the Pokémon servers went down for a spell — making gaming impossible — and as the night wore on and the club’s brand of retro cheese intensified, the more serious, non-virtual, pastimes of dancing and mingling took priority.
Indeed, if an underprepared visitor had stopped by for a drink, the only real sign that anything out of the ordinary was taking place would be the ridiculous costumes staff were forced to wear, a hooded yellow jump suit resembling Pikachu, which my Pokédex (OK Wikipedia) informs me is “a short, chubby rodent Pokémon”. Hard to find, apparently — the costumes, and the character.
Club director Gary Holliday admitted the party was likely to be a one-off.
“We like to move forward and try different things,” he said. “All I hope for from the evening is that someone finds one of the really rare Pokémon.”
Societe’s party was announced a week before the event, on July 21, declared in the blurb as the “first ever over-21 Pokémon party in the UAE”.
However Holliday’s thunder was promptly stolen by upmarket nightspot VIP Room, who on July 24 announced their own Pokémon party, to take place two days later, on July 26 — and two days before Societe’s event. However gamers were not encouraged to play at VIP Room’s party, and photographs supplied after this hastily arranged event suggest the only concession to the theme may have been yellow caps worn by staff — not a patch on Societe’s jump suits.
A more tenuous piece of marketing was also announced by Dusit Thani Dubai, who are currently offering customers at in-house buffet restaurant The Californian a beverage upgrade, worth Dh60 on top of the basic packages priced Dh165-210, if they can prove they caught a Pokémon on the hotel premises.
Meanwhile shops such as Geekay Games in Dubai Mall advertise “something special” for members of their “team” (Mystic — in case you’re wondering). Doubtless many more deals and dos will have been announced by the time you read this.
Remember — Pokémon Go was released barely three weeks ago, on July 6, and the speed with which these tenuous marketing stunts have popped up make clear just one thing. As swift as its monumental growth will come this fad’s peak, crest and fall. In three weeks time, the idea of a Pokémon party will just be so passé.
Published: July 29, 2016 04:00 AM