The effect of Pokémon Go on the pulse of the city: a natural experiment
Data Science Institute, Faculty of Engineering, Universidad del Desarrollo, Av. La Plaza 680, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
2 Telefónica R&D, Av. Manuel Montt 1404, Third Floor, Providencia, Santiago, Chile
* e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 7 September 2017
Published online: 15 September 2017
Pokémon Go, a location-based game that uses augmented reality techniques, received unprecedented media coverage due to claims that it allowed for greater access to public spaces, increasing the number of people out on the streets, and generally improving health, social, and security indices. However, the true impact of Pokémon Go on people’s mobility patterns in a city is still largely unknown. In this paper, we perform a natural experiment using data from mobile phone networks to evaluate the effect of Pokémon Go on the pulse of a big city: Santiago, capital of Chile. We found significant effects of the game on the floating population of Santiago compared to movement prior to the game’s release in August 2016: in the following week, up to 13.8% more people spent time outside at certain times of the day, even if they do not seem to go out of their usual way. These effects were found by performing regressions using count models over the states of the cellphone network during each day under study. The models used controlled for land use, daily patterns, and points of interest in the city.
Our results indicate that, on business days, there are more people on the street at commuting times, meaning that people did not change their daily routines but slightly adapted them to play the game. Conversely, on Saturday and Sunday night, people indeed went out to play, but favored places close to where they live.
Even if the statistical effects of the game do not reflect the massive change in mobility behavior portrayed by the media, at least in terms of expanse, they do show how ‘the street’ may become a new place of leisure. This change should have an impact on long-term infrastructure investment by city officials, and on the drafting of public policies aimed at stimulating pedestrian traffic.
Key words: Pokémon / mobile phone data / call detail records / floating population / urban informatics
© The Author(s), 2017