Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Pokemon Go

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.

Google Finance. Notes: Nintendo also likely dropped once people realized they were only getting a percentage of the revenue (Niantic, the actual creator was privately held). The bounce back around October was likely the announcement of Nintendo Switch.

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?

Source: Bloomberg

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.



  1. childresss19 childresss19

    I am surprised that Nintendo allowed their Pokemon content to be used in this game; the concerns mentioned above seem to be fairly obvious and the games lack of popularity risks sullying the franchise of Pokemon. I am curious as to the relationship Niantic had/has with Nintendo, in terms of what their contract concerning Pokemon Go stated. It would make sense that Niantic be required to improve the game in some way or have continued success in order to use Nintendo content and characters.

  2. Jordan Krasner Jordan Krasner

    To me Pokemon Go was just one of many pop-culture fads that we have seen before similar to the manikin challenge, the running man and Harambe (RIP!). In my humble opinion the game was not at all fun to play so I am not surprised its popularity fell so rapidly. While virtual reality might be the future, it will have to do much more than Pokemon Go did in order to gain my interest.

  3. The speed at which users came and left Pokemon Go epitomizes the short attention span of our generation. Because of this, Niantic’s poor business strategy in taking forever to release new features meant Pokemon Go was always doomed to fail as people naturally lost interest. It would have been interesting to see the difference in performance if Niantic had a clearer and quicker acting roadmap.

  4. embreyp18 embreyp18

    It was a terrible game that required people to actually move around. If an individual did not have the ability to physically move around an area, then the app got old quickly. Honestly, I feel that besides not having many features, Pokemon Go lost all of its users due to the fact that it really wasn’t a video game in the traditional sense. It was more of a nostalgic app that attempted to get people up and moving.

    • kirschnerk18 kirschnerk18

      I don’t know if I agree. I feel like a lot of the positive things I read were about how the game actually got people to move around. While I found it infuriating to be walking behind or toward someone who was playing the game, I did think it was kind of cool to observe a mass of people be in one place because of the game when there were rumors of a rare Pokemon in that spot. However, I do agree that a second aspect to the game, like battling on the old GameBoy games, where you can just sit down and relax would have been smart and perhaps made the game last longer for users.

  5. zhengm18 zhengm18

    My friend and I actually both bet that Pokemon Go was going to fade in roughly half a year, despite the insane popularity in the first few months. Being a big fan of the original game boy Pokemon games, I found the experience of Pokemon Go incomparable due to the old games, despite the nostalgic factors. Similar to the article comments, the lack of variety in the game and inherent laziness in people made the game die at a very fast pace. Also, Nintendo only benefited from a quarter of Pokemon Go’s revenue, and it was actually Google through their investment in Niantic technologies (the creators behind Pokemon Go) that benefited the most from revenue in the game. Again, an example of a stock price (Nintendo) not reflecting intrinsic value in the short term.

  6. Pokemon Go appears to have been a potentially great idea if the model had been developed more. It lacked a lot of features that people were looking for that existed in the original game. With that being said, I don’t think the game was “terrible” as one of the comments suggested above. In fact, as a camp counselor last summer, many campers eagerly played the game and were under 10 years old, suggesting the game was not just drawing on nostalgic effects.

    One thing the posts have not considered is the seasonal change, however. During the summer people are more prone to go outside and be active, so maybe with improvements in the game’s features we could see Pokemon Go rebound in the coming months.

  7. watsonj19 watsonj19

    Unlike many of the comments above, I think that Pokemon Go was a very innovative concept for an app. It was a game that attracted all ages and genders and encouraged people to go outside rather than sit behind a computer screen. I noticed that while the game was at its peak popularity many of the “gyms” were in locations with restaurants and other businesses. Although popularity has decreased dramatically, I think an effective strategy would be to have companies pay to have these stops at their business to try to attract more consumers.

  8. aeschlimand19 aeschlimand19

    Today there are mobile devices that provide access to a virtually limitless library of free and cheap games. I read somewhere that Nintendo’s management team has always been conservative in adapting to such changes in consumer gaming. While Nintendo may have failed in Pokemon Go, the initial success that Pokemon Go saw is indicative of Nintendo’s potential to capture a new market in the mobile gaming industry. Perhaps in the future the company will release better mobile software games. On a different note, I’m curious to see whether or not the failure of Pokemon Go will cast doubt on the long term viability of the entire augmented reality game category.

  9. Alex Niemann Alex Niemann

    I am interested by the slow roll out of new features for the game on Niantic’s part. Last summer, my fellow interns were particularly enamored with Pokemon Go and a couple of them spoke of updates that were supposed to come further down the road. One of them seemed certain that the game’s creators had admitted that only about twenty percent of the game’s content had been released yet, and that the full game would be a masterpiece, complete with battles, regionally found Pokemon, and other elements that would make it more similar to the original game. It seems that these updates never came and were perhaps mere speculation from the beginning. Given the hype and the optimism of the game’s most dedicated players, it really seems that Niantic dropped the ball here. Perhaps Nintendo should have passed the job on to a different group after seeing the game’s stagnation under Niantic. Of course, it’s also possible that this game was just part of a plan to try and reinvigorate public excitement about Pokemon.

Comments are closed.