A lot has been written about the game-changing success of Pokemon Go, the popular app based on Nintendo's (OTC:NTDOY) character-catching and battling franchise that's raising the bar for both online gaming in general and augmented reality in particular. Nintendo's stock opened sharply higher on Monday following the explosive popularity of the game.
The success of Pokemon Go will also be good news for app developer Niantic as well as smartphone makers and wireless carriers. Folks are going through a lot of data as they wander about town acquiring Pokemon characters, hitting up Pokestop landmarks for item replenishments and virtual gyms for training and battle showdowns.
Let's dig another layer deep into the viral mastery of Pokemon Go. Let's explore how the overnight success of a single mobile app could help fuel a rebound at Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Fitbit (NYSE:FIT). Disney is trading slightly lower this year. Fitbit is trading a lot lower. Let's see how Pokemon Go could help breathe new life into a pair of out-of-favor stocks.
Fitbit wants you on the move
If your social media feeds are anything like mine, you're seeing a lot of posts about the impact that Pokemon Go is having on people. Adults are exploring their cities at odd hours. Kids are actually getting out of the house, unforgiving summer heat and all.
Folks are strapping on their Fitbits as they go on these treks to log the distances that they're covering. It's true that smartphones have built-in health apps that also monitor activity, but sometimes it's convenient to have a dedicated fashion accessory that specializes in tracking physical activity and the calories being burned.
Fitbit sold 21.4 million connected health and fitness devices last summer. It sold another 4.8 million during the first three months of this year. We don't know how many of them may have started to collect dust like old gym memberships, but it wouldn't be a surprise if Pokemon Go pushing people to mobile lifestyles -- in more ways than one -- is resulting in folks rekindling their relationships with their fitness trackers.
Disney wants to rock its World
Disney suffered a year-over-year dip in attendance during the March-ended quarter. The sharp decline in Latin American tourists to Florida and dramatic hike in ticket prices appears to be weighing on attendance.
Along comes Pokemon Go to save the day. Disney World's theme parks are a hotbed of Pokemon, Pokestops, and Pokemon gyms. Many of the ride entrances and even parking lot sections have been tagged as Pokestops, places where folks can receive bonus items once they are in close proximity to them.
I've been to three of Disney World's four theme parks since Pokemon Go was released last week, and all three times I've seen folks glued to their smartphones near the Pokestop hotspots and gyms.
Disney has spent years rolling out in-park scavenger hunts to keep game-hungry patrons coming back. Along comes Nintendo through San Francisco app developer Niantic Labs to do what the House of Mouse hasn't been able to do organically. Pokemon Go is making Disney World's theme parks interesting to gamers at a time when the media giant is struggling to make that happen with a lack of new attractions at all but one of its parks.
Nintendo obviously isn't a Disney property, and the irony here is that Disney's biggest theme park rival is the one that recently inked a deal to bring Nintendo characters into its theme parks. The joke's on Universal, as smartphone-wielding kids and nostalgic adults are geocaching for Pokemon characters and virtual tools throughout Disney's theme parks.
Disney needs this. I was at Disney's Animal Kingdom on Friday night, and three hours before the park closed there wasn't a single line longer than 10 minutes. This was a whole hour before the park's nighttime show would swallow another 5,000 guests. Whether it's the Latin American tourism drop, an 18% spike in single-day ticket prices, or blackout dates introduced to most classes of Disney World annual passes, this summer feels different at the theme park capital of the world. If a third-party game finds folks gravitating back through Disney's gates, the family entertainment behemoth will be the first one to point out that you've got to catch 'em all.