The mobile phone app was an instant hit when it debuted in July. Crowds stampeded after a Vaporeon in Central Park and people fell off cliffs playing it in California. At an Apple event on Sept. 7, Niantic CEO John Hanke said 500 million people had downloaded the game in just two months.
It was the first mobile game to go mainstream in a big way since “Candy Crush” in 2014 or “Angry Birds” in 2012. It was also the first to incorporate augmented reality, a blending of the real and virtual worlds.
But the buzz has decidedly cooled. Last Tuesday, the game ended its reign as the top-grossing U.S. iPhone app after 74 days on top, replaced by “Clash Royale,” a popular battling game, according to research firm Sensor Tower. Twitter mentions of the game peaked at 1.7 million on July 11, five days after its launch, according to Adobe Digital Insights. That number had fallen by 98 percent, to 131,000, by Sept. 7, when Apple featured it.
Was it all a summer fever dream? While experts say the game is likely to remain popular for a while, it needs to evolve to have real staying power — just like its namesake digital creatures.
Of course, an enormous number of people still play the game. Research firm App Annie estimates 1 in 10 smartphone owners in the U.S. are playing; in Japan, that number is 1 in 4. Those U.S. figures are half what App Annie saw the week after the game launched — but to put them in perspective, they still reflect roughly the same user interest as Twitter or Pinterest.
“Pokemon Go” has also been good at keeping people playing after signing up. Its 30-day retention rate is the second best on the Google Play store — behind “Words with Friends,” but ahead of other popular games such as “Clash of Clans” and “Clash Royale.”
“For a gaming app to be as big as a social network is unprecedented,” said Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, a spokesman at App Annie. “Right now, yes, they’re losing a million players every week. But they get a million new players every week.”
The longer users interact with the game, the more time a company has to figure out how to get money from them, Nicolas said. It took a year for some successful games like “Clash of Clans,” “Puzzle” and “Dragon” to earn revenue of $1 billion, but “Pokemon Go” has already made more than $500 million in revenue in two months alone, according to App Annie. The game is free, but lets users purchase items in the game.
Jones suggests the company needs to do more to keep people interested — for example, by adding some kind of social element so that players can interact with each other. His two teenage sons, he notes, have grown slightly less enchanted with the game.
“Young people are used to doing social media and there isn’t really messaging as part of the game,” Jones said. There have been persistent rumors that Niantic plans to let players trade captured Pokemon with one another, although the company hasn’t commented on that.
The big challenge for “Pokemon Go” is to avoid the fate of “Candy Crush,” says Pace University marketing professor Larry Chiagouris. Created by King Digital, “Candy Crush” because a smash hit; Activision Blizzard subsequently bought King for $5.9 billion. But while people still play the game, the fervor around it has died down.
When the game was at its peak, “you were getting invited to play Candy Crush every day” on Facebook, he said. “You don’t get too many invitations to play Candy Crush anymore.”
You Might be Wondering :
What is Pokemon Go?
Pokémon Go is a free-to-play, location-based pervasive augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS, Android, and Apple Watch devices. It was initially released in selected countries in July 2016. In the game, players use a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items.
That’s not all…
Pokémon Go was released to mixed reviews, with critics praising the game’s concept and the incentive to be more active in the real world, while criticizing frequent technical issues apparent at launch. Despite such reviews, it quickly became a global phenomenon and was one of the most used and profitable mobile apps in 2016, having been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide. It was credited with popularizing location-based and augmented reality gaming, promoting physical activity, and helping local businesses grow. However, it also attracted controversy for contributing to accidents and becoming a public nuisance at some locations. Multiple governments expressed concerns over the game’s security, with legislation regarding it being passed in some countries as a result.