Sprint is giving Pokemon trainers a reason to come into its stores.
The nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier is partnering with Niantic, the developer behind the smash hit Pokemon Go, to turn more than 10,500 Sprint, Boost Mobile and Sprint-RadioShack stores into PokeStops and Gyms.
The new deal takes effect December 12, which is when Niantic will share more details about new Pokemon coming to the game. Niantic CEO John Hanke teased that while some creatures would emerge that day, others would come later.
The Sprint deal marks the first partnership for Niantic and Pokemon Go, which showed a tremendous ability to drive traffic to specific locations such as shops, landmarks and parks. The hope is that players will come in to collect items like eggs and Poke Balls, or challenge the gym for supremacy -- go, Team Valor! -- as well as to charge their phones.
"We expect a huge uptick in traffic," Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said in an interview.
Claure, who referred to players as "Pokemon hunters" (the preferred nomenclature is "trainer"), said that one of Sprint's biggest problems has been the inability to drive people to its stores. He called the partnership a different way to advertise.
Claure and Hanke declined to talk about the financial terms of the deal, but Claure confirmed that Sprint would pay Niantic for increased traffic into the stores. The deal also makes Sprint the exclusive wireless partner, so you won't be seeing any new gyms or stops pop up at Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile locations.
Hanke added that Niantic would be selective about the future partnerships it strikes.
Pokemon Go proved to be a monster hit over the summer, topping the charts and generating revenue faster than any previous mobile game. The augmented reality game, which had players venturing outside to catch virtual monsters that appeared on their phones, became a cultural phenomenon.
But its popularity has waned as players have moved on to other interests. Though it's still No. 10 on the Apple App Store's list of top-grossing apps, it has fallen off the top charts for downloads.
Niantic has attempted to reignite interest with updates that offer incentives to keep playing. It hopes to draw back players with a new wave of Pokemon to come next Monday.
"We'll put out more information to explain what's coming," Hanke said. "Not all Pokemon are created equal, and there are different families within the Pokemon universe. We're bringing them out in a logical way."
When asked about the ability to pit your Pokemon directly against another player's team, Hanke was mum.
"It's one of the features we look at, but there's no specific announcement," he said. "It's something I personally would like to do."