Inquisitive Pokémon Go fans have discovered evidence in the source code of the Pokémon Go app that indicates developers Niantic Labs may have entered a partnership with McDonald's to provide sponsored locations at the franchise's restaurants around the world.
Reddit user KcYoung took the Pokémon Go app's .apk file and used software tools to extract game assets from the unity resource files within the file. Among the image file assets featuring images from the game, he found the familiar McDonald's 'golden arches'.
Independently, another Reddit user tf2manu994, from Sydney, Australia, investigated the app's code and found a string nested within the code that says "Sponsor.MCDONALDS.POKEMON_STRE.
FortRenderingType", and other users reading the code noticed references showing that the McDonald's outlets were being referred to as "gyms".
Pokémon Go is a free-to-play smartphone game app for Android and iOS devices by Nintendo and developers Niantic that uses augmented reality (AR) and real-world location data to enable users to explore their surroundings and capture Pokémon, mysterious cartoon animal-like creatures that have special powers.
The idea is that anyone can become a Pokémon trainer, collecting various Pokémon with different powers and raising them to go into battle against other trainers. Markers listed on an augmented reality map of the users' surroundings shows special locations like "PokéStops", where players can find in-game loot like food, potions and Pokéballs, or gyms, where users battle against Pokémon trainers from opposing teams in order to capture the gym for their side.
McDonald's would be a good place to put gyms and PokéStops
Since the game launched on 7 July, restaurants, cafes, takeaways, churches, libraries, museums and other local businesses and public buildings have discovered that Niantic has randomly assigned PokéStops and gyms in towns in a bid to make use of local landmarks.
Even though the game has only been released so far in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, users in other countries are successfully using workarounds to locate these designated locations, bringing more foot traffic to local businesses, and many business owners now want to know how they can have their business designated as a PokéStops or a gym.
Niantic's chief executive John Hanke told the Financial Times on 13 July that its business model for Pokémon Go was to offer it to download for free, and make money from in-app PokéCoin purchases as well as by enabling companies to sponsor specific locations, which is similar to the business model for its previous game app Ingress.
Hanke didn't specify which brands Niantic would be working with, but if the app developer is indeed working with McDonald's, the partnership could prove to be very fruitful for the fast food chain. This would also be good for Pokémon Go fans, who would have a guaranteed place that they know they can go to, especially if McDonald's were to offer exclusive content.
IBTimes UK has reached out to McDonald's for comment, but has received no reply as of press time.