Cornering the housing market with Pokemon Go

People have found love and friendship with the popular interactive game Pokemon Go. Now, a real estate agent is using the game to snatch up potential clients.

Cornwall real estate agent is catering to a gaming clientele and proves this game has legs

Derek Bissonnette drives around eastern Ontario playing Pokemon Go for fun and to help find more clients for his realtor business. (Supplied)

Since 2016, people have found love and friendship with the popular interactive game Pokemon Go.

Now, a Cornwall, Ont., real estate agent is using the game to find people homes, too.

Derek Bissonnette discovered the untapped market three years ago when he downloaded the app for a little bit of fun and exercise.

He said he noticed some players talking about wanting to buy a new home — but they didn't know any realtors.

"And then it just kind of clicked," said Bissonnette. "There is a new market here that no one is using."

Derek Bissonnette says the Pokemon Go craze has led to a unique business niche: finding homes for players who want to live near places Pokemon congregate. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Niche market

The game, Bissonnette said, is now one of his secret business strategies for snatching up clients.

He decided to start attending tournaments and raids — locations set up by the game for players to acquire special Pokemon — in order to meet people face-to-face.

He even bought branded pens to help people play in the winter time and market his business at the same time.

Clients met through the game now account for 10 to 15 per cent of his business, he said. It's also helped him create a niche: finding homes for avid players who have special Pokemon-related requests.

Derek Bissonnette and other players in Cornwall, Ont., head out in freezing rain and snow in order to catch Pokemon. (Supplied )

Most recently, Bissonnette worked with a client who wanted a home located in an area where Pokemon lurk in abundance, and where there are several "gyms" — locations where gamers go to train their Pokemon.

Bissonnette consulted a Pokemon map to help the player find a home in the right location. 

"Now he can see about six gyms from his house, and he's bragging about the Pokemon he's catching," Bissonnette said.

Pokemon connection beyond home buying

It's little surprise to Pokemon aficionado and Carleton University digital media professor Vicky McArthur that the game's influence is reaching into players' everyday lives — with real estate purchases only one small part.

"It's got a very loyal following, and a very large international following. I think that group would follow Pokemon Go to the ends of the Earth," McArthur said.

"It largely owes its success to that fan base and their loyalty."

The game, she said, now encourages players to work collaboratively rather than simply battle each other — and it was at one of those collaborative Pokemon raids that Shawn Silverman found love. 

A former "hermit," Silverman said he used to spend four to six hours online playing poker before downloading the game.

All of the sudden, he found himself helping another player defeat an extremely powerful Pokemon character — and the rest, as they say, is Poke-history.

"It didn't take long from first [meeting] till we were actually seeing each other on a regular basis," said Silverman.

Silverman recently moved in with his girlfriend, and now they trudge outside together — in both summer heat waves and winter blizzards —  to pursue Pokemon.

"It made me a lot more sociable. I have a massive pool of friends now," Silverman said.

Chloé Monteath and Shawn Silverman met at a Pokemon raid in late 2018. Now they trudge through rain and snow in search of Pokemon. (Miriam Katawazi/CBC)

For Emily Brascoupe-Hoefler, a public servant in Ottawa, the game's also brought her and other federal government workers closer together.

She's part of a regular group that meets during their breaks, hunting Pokemon through the downtown.

"I met a lot of other government employees who play … it's sort of a neat way to network and just sort of find things in common," said Brascoupe-Hoefler, who also plays the game after work with her five-year-old son. 

McArthur said she's looking forward to seeing how a Pokemon Go-style Harry Potter game, set for release this year, will be embraced by that franchise's equally loyal fanbase. 

Emily Brascoupe-Hoefler, a public servant in Ottawa, plays Pokemon Go with her five-year-old son and with fellow federal government workers downtown. (Supplied )