As I’m typing this, Pokémon Go has been out for exactly 3 months and two days. In that small window of time, it has gone through a whirlwind of success, jumping to the #1 spot in both the iOS store and the Google Play store respectively, and sweeping over the phones and lives of new fans and old nostalgic’s alike. In what seemed like an instant, droves of people, both in groups and alone alike began walking throughout my town with faces glued to their phones, chatting among themselves and to strangers about the Pokémon they’ve caught. Even becoming downright raucous when they came across something new.
At one point, it even seemed to be growing out of control here in the United States. People were involved in wrecks, they were being robbed, they were falling off freaking cliffs, and even finding dead bodies, on numerous occasions. So many dead bodies in fact, that I decided to just make that last link lead to a Google search, because I’m too lazy to compile any sort of data into a graph.
Yet somehow, when you fast forward to today, Pokémon Go looks like it’s starting to fade from the limelight. So what happened? The answer is actually kind of simple. Pokémon Go is an overly simplified game that was riding a user generated hype-train.
Ever since the April Fool’s day prank titled “Pokémon Challenge” was released through the collaborative efforts of Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and Google in 2014, fans began begging and hoping for a real time Pokémon game that could deliver the same fun and entertainment that the original Nintendo franchise had provided over the years. Come 2016, we all got what we asked for, except it seems that we didn’t know what we wanted, or maybe Niantic didn’t, or maybe…no one did.
It’s like this: when Pokémon Co, Nintendo, and Google showed us the “Pokémon Challenge” the Pokémon fanbase collectively lost their shit. We couldn’t believe that Pokémon in the real world was an actual possibility. So what did we do? We jumped on it, we told them everything we wanted —the ability to catch and raise Pokémon while also playing with, around, and against each other. Not on a Nintendo handheld either, we wanted it on something more accessible, something that everyone has, something that isn’t necessarily a new purchase that would burn a hole in our pockets. We wanted it on our phones.
Bugs are tiresome but expected. What really irked a lot of people was the fact that Niantic’s app didn’t even have half of the things that they previewed in their teaser.
So the Pokémon Company and Niantic teamed up and did just that, except this is where the oversight came into play. Everyone was so intent on focusing on the app and getting what they wanted, that everyone completely forgot about what made Pokémon great. It was the story, the gameplay, the struggle of starting out with nothing but a single Pokémon and working up from there. Whether it was our fault or Niantic’s is up to debate, but in my opinion, both parties messed up in their own right. We as consumers completely forgot to make sure that Niantic knew what exactly what made us love Pokémon in the first place, and Niantic itself messed up because it seems like they didn’t take the time to learn about the demographic or what caused Pokémon to be so successful.
At the same time, I want to argue that they did know about all of that, but they either didn’t care or just didn’t feel like it mattered. Why do I say this? Because of this video. I mean, that’s what they had as their teaser less than a year before release, and by that point, you should be pretty much close to done with your product, aside from cleaning it up a bit. This teaser not only had people catching Pokémon and arguably fighting over a gym (Snorlax on the bridge), but the players in it are also trading Pokémon and having battles with others in a situation that seems to have nothing to do with a gym. Sure, they didn’t promise a story line, and we can’t really expect a giant fight against Mewtwo just yet, considering that it has only been 3 months, but Niantic seemed to at least have a basic understanding of what made Pokémon function and they still didn’t deliver much; even considering the fact that it was only a beta release. Bugs are tiresome but expected. What really irked a lot of people was the fact that Niantic’s app didn’t even have half of the things that they previewed in their teaser.
Niantic is already calling in quality control and trying to deliver new aspects to the game like the buddy system, Pokémon Plus, and trading & battles as well, but I’m not sure if it is too little too late.
So come July, Niantic decides to release its half-assed brainchild, and boom, it’s a huge success. But as time goes on, and people continuously do the same repetitive actions: catch, release, go to a pokéstop, evolve, and repeat, they began to realize how monotonous the game is. Besides leveling up, there is no excitement, no real reward. There is no grind outside of catching constant clones and throwing them away until you have enough candy to evolve a Pokémon you’ll never really worry about again. You could argue that gyms were a welcome distraction, but they weren’t really what a lot of people expected. Instead of having a classical gym setting, they just ended up being checkpoints that teams battle for. Which is actually a pretty good idea, except for the fact that if you were the average Joe who didn’t spend countless hours making sure your Pokémon strong enough to hold down the fort, while also being quick enough to get there first when they were free, the odds of you actually holding a gym were non-existent.
So now we are at the point where critics have started to call out Niantic for this lack of substance and the number of people that are visibly playing the game has dropped drastically. Of course, there are still those die-hard fans that are still giving the game a chance, but all in all, it doesn’t seem like the game will have much of a shelf life. Niantic is already calling in quality control and trying to deliver new aspects to the game like the buddy system, Pokémon Plus, and trading & battles as well, but I’m not sure if it is too little too late.
If Niantic makes a complete turnaround, due to a release in China, South Korea, or otherwise, they might even bring their earnings near their original starting point, while hopefully improving and adding more to the game.
At the same time, Pokémon Go hasn’t been out as long in other countries and the app was recently reported to be making $2 million dollars a day, which is nothing to laugh at. Still, compared to the $16 million a day that it was making at the start of everything, you could still argue that Niantic has still taken quite a plunge when it comes to revenue.
So where does that leave Pokémon Go? I’d have to say at this point it’s up in the air. Niantic is supposedly releasing an update that allows trading soon, and hopefully, they will follow up with battles outside of gyms. From there, who knows? Depending on reception, Pokémon Go could continue to sink in popularity or possibly stay afloat. If Niantic makes a complete turnaround, due to a release in China, South Korea, or otherwise, they might even bring their earnings near their original starting point, while hopefully improving and adding more to the game.
Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely hope that everything works out for the best and that having Pokémon in the real world continues being a reality. I’m just unsure if a company like Niantic really cares at this point, now that they’ve made so much money. If they do decide to give up on this venture, I don’t see it happening again for a good while. Either due to fans being reluctant about getting their hopes up, or other companies being unsure if they want to invest in something similar to Pokémon Go. So here’s hoping to the continued success and improvement of Pokémon Go, whether it’s for us, or the dough.