Pokemon GoÔÇª is it Pokemon Gone?
Pokemon Go, the ÔÇ£augmented realityÔÇØ game, took the world by storm when it was launched in July 2016. A bemused global public was deluged with images of people all over the world running about chasing air with their smartphones, in what seemed to be extremely odd behaviour. It was funny, it was fun, and it became the craze of the summer.
Pokemon Go was the first game to really bring Virtual Reality mainstream - before this point VR games had really been a niche market. Players used their smartphones to locate and capture virtual creatures via GPS. It was the craze that launched a thousand newspaper articles, memes, and social media updates. Some said this was the future of online gaming.
Fast-forward a few months, and where has Pokemon Gone? Its fall from popularity was precipitous. By mid-August, analysts were noting the game was on a downward trend. Though Pokemon Go was downloaded more than 500 million times and overall was one of the most popular apps of the year, by mid-September revenues were down (from 16 million dollars per day to 2 million).
Niantic Labs, the gameÔÇÖs developer, responded by introducing a new ÔÇ£buddyÔÇØ system which allowed users to win game currency, releasing an Apple Watch app and a wearable gadget that lights up when the player is near a new Pokemon.
However, the game was criticised for not including enough ÔÇ£deepÔÇØ elements to keep players interested once they had played the game extensively. There was controversy over health and safety concerns, with the authorities in various countries warning of public nuisances caused by people playing the game and placing themselves in harmÔÇÖs way on public streets, for example.
Arguably, a more serious controversy was the issue of ÔÇ£Pokemon trackingÔÇØ apps, developed by third party developers. These apps proved very popular with users, because they made it easier to find the Pokemon characters. But at the same time, they gave user information to all sorts of third-party providers who could use it for advertising or other purposes ÔÇô which contravened user security. However, Niantic obliged these developers to shut down their apps; the flip side of this move was that it reduced the enjoyment factor for many players.
So where to now for Pokemon Go? The answer probably lies in expanding to new markets, while at the same time working on ÔÇ£deepeningÔÇØ the gaming experience for existing players. A ÔÇ£socialÔÇØ element might work, involving players being able to compete or collaborate with each other. The Pokemon brand is so strong that with a properly-devised strategy for acquiring new users and re-engaging existing users, it could possibly regain its place at the top of the digital charts.