The Pokemon Go craze hit the world in the summer of 2016. In the first week, over 10 million people had downloaded Pokemon Go. By Pokemon Go’s peak in July of 2016, there were over 21 million daily users along with 500 million total downloads. These insane statistics meant Pokemon Go was one of the most played apps ever. However, it seemed that as quickly as Pokemon Go came, it left. Looking at Nintendo’s stock, (which is the best financial measure we have even thought they only received a small percentage of the revenue) you can easily see the rise and subsequent fall of Pokemon go.
By time the time schools were starting back up in the fall, the phenomenon had all but faded. How had a game as popular as Pokemon Go felt such decline, where by August 2016 Pokemon Go was losing around 10 million users a month?
One reason Pokemon Go had such a steep rise in the first place was the nostalgic aspect of Pokemon Go. Young adults age 18-34 were the key demographic averaging 78% of downloads with males 21-27 making up the largest portion of that demographic. Mostly everyone played pokemon in some form as a child and so Pokemon Go represented a way to capture that youth. Additionally, Pokemon Go’s augmented reality set up was a fairly novel concept to the mass market.
So what happened to cause Pokemon Go to fall as quickly as it rose? One reason is that the game was released before there was actual game play. Sure you could walk around and capture pokemon or take on a gym, but little else reflected the game most of us knew and loved. There were no attacks, only swiping left and right while furiously tapping; wild pokemon simply waited to have pokeballs tossed at it, and no interface in which to communicate/trade/battle other users directly. The actual game play left much to be desired and Niantic (the creator of the app) seemed to role out new features very slowly. This led many users to lose interest in the game. Niantic was silent as to how they planned on improving many flaws in the game (the issue of pokemon tracking, no battling others, trading, etc.) which only caused more users to leave the game.
Pokemon Go, while a tremendous business idea, was a poorly executed game. The creators seemingly had no road map as to how they intended to make improvements, fix issues and their inability to communicate with users only compounded the problem. Augmented reality games (ARGs) are a novel concept and could be the future of gaming, but games such as Pokemon Go indicate that ARGs might have further to go before being truly competitive with conventional gaming.