Pokémon Go lands Japanese mobile operator SoftBank as sponsored location

There may be a debate about whether we’ve reached peak Pokémon Go for gamers, but the hit title is just getting started with brands. That’s because Japanese mobile operator SoftBank is the latest company to sign up to be a “sponsored location” inside the game.

The deal is undisclosed, but you can presume that SoftBank, which is valued at around $80 billion, is paying some pretty pennies for the chance to be featured as one of the select brands inside the red-hot location-based game.

McDonald’s Japan was Pokémon Go’s first sponsored location when it tied up with the game for its launch in Japan in July. The fast food company’s 3,000 restaurants in the country became sponsored Pokémon Go stops and gyms in a bid to see if the popularity of the game could create real-life traffic.

The deal seemed to go well — even though a leak from McDonald’s did delay the game’s Japan launch — and now SoftBank has joined the legion. From today, 3,700 stores from SoftBank and its Y!Mobile subsidiary will be either PokéStops or gyms where gamers can grab free goodies or train their Pokémon.

“Pokémon Go collaborative campaigns and services unique to SoftBank will also be considered in the future,” SoftBank added in a statement.

It isn’t immediately clear what that might mean. McDonald’s ran a campaign of Pokémon Go-themed meals and merchandising; it seems likely that SoftBank will also release themed products and services.

News of the partnership has already helped lift SoftBank’s share price by 1.6 percent. Nintendo — which is involved in the title — saw its share price rise 3.3 percent, too, as Bloomberg noted.

So far, Niantic and the Pokémon Company — the two firms behind Pokémon Go — have only added sponsors in Japan, which makes sense because the country is the birthplace of Pokémon and where its most loyal fans are located. But, with more than 100 million downloads worldwide and an apparent daily revenue rate in excess of $10 million, the game clearly has global appeal, and that means potential for further business deals.

In an interview with Reuters last month, Niantic CEO John Hanke said he was keen to add more sponsors where there is a fit. Hanke is speaking at our Disrupt event in San Francisco this month, so let’s see what he has to say about the potential for sponsored locations in the U.S. and other places.