If your kids are turning into Pokémon Go fanatics, it could cost you. And in more ways than you think.
How can this be, since the Pokémon game is free? Let me show you the ways.
The game, played on your mobile phone by downloading an app, challenges players to catch pocket monsters in the “real world” through the wonders of augmented reality. The monster search is also meant to get players of all ages outdoors and on the move, and by all accounts it’s doing just that.
Simple enough. But if you want to enhance the game-playing experience, there are accessories.
The hottest game accessory seems to be the Pokémon Go Plus wristband, which costs about $35 and quickly sold out through preorders. With this device, players can catch the wild monsters with a click of a button without having to pull out their phones.
Players can also purchase certain items and game features through in-app purchases, such as Pokéballs used to catch the pocket monsters and “incense” meant to lure the creatures.
To avoid the spending temptations, gaming experts recommend turning off your kids’ ability to make purchases within your mobile phone’s settings. (For that matter, experts also recommend supervising younger kids’ play, especially since concerns have been raised about personal safety and hackers’ ability to steal personal information.)
Battery life is another issue that can dent your wallet. Because the game uses a phone’s navigational features along with camera and graphics, batteries can take a hit. As a result, many hard-core gamers — especially 20-somethings with disposable income — have been buying backup batteries. Portable power packs that I priced ranged from $10 to $75.
You also burn through data on your mobile phone, which could run up your monthly bill. Talk to your young player about how much data you have on your phone, demonstrate how to monitor it, and draw the line on who will be paying the overage fees.
Kids might also start lobbying you for their own phone to play the game instead of just borrowing yours. There’s a reason that wireless companies have jumped on the Pokémon Go experience — they want to get you into their stores to buy not only phones for the kids but battery packs, covers and other accessories.
The merchandising doesn’t stop there. Go online, for example, and you can shop for Pokémon socks, shirts, hats, backpacks, sheets, comforters, stickers and pins. On eBay, there were more than 103,000 listings for all sorts of Pokémon gear.
There’s another way to play the game — buying shares in Nintendo. But be careful about jumping on the hype.
Shares nearly doubled in the days following the launch of Pokémon Go as many buyers expected a huge windfall for Nintendo. But the company reminded investors this week that it had little to do with development of the game and will not see significant profits from the release.
Perhaps this is another opportunity to teach young gamers how to be skeptical investors, too.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879