Updated: May 16
Earlier this year the mobile game “Pokémon Go” was released, after monumental amounts of hype that had Pokémon fans new and old waiting anxiously for its release.
Upon its release, the game generated between $3.9 million and $4.9 million in its first day, according to Digital Market Ramblings, an online aggregator that tracks video game statistics.
Of all the great comebacks seen in recent years – the return of Pokémon in 2016 is probably the most monumental.
The game was downloaded 50 million times in its first 19 days, and while it had its problems, it received rave reviews.
For around a month or so – essentially the month of July when the game launched – the world came not so much to a standstill but started walking more, and in the same direction, trying to catch that Bulbasaur.
“Pokémon Go,” despite its roaring popularity, may have just been a passing fad like many mobile games that have come before it, including “Clash of Clans” or “The Simpsons: Tapped Out.” You might have noticed that many businesses no longer display the Pokémon you can catch on their premises. So why has the game fizzled out?
One contributing factor could be the fact that “Pokémon Go” is not actually made by Nintendo, the company that created the Pokémon franchise. When “Pokémon Go” was released, Nintendo’s stock shares skyrocketed according to The Verge then quickly fell as it was discovered that Nintendo was not the developer.
As it turns out, the game was a collaboration between the Pokémon Company, a Japanese company that licenses Pokémon products, and a company called Niantic, which has produced augmented reality games in the past.
But yet the smartphone wielding crowds quickly began to shrink, the eggs no longer being incubated by walkers and Rattata’s left to their own devices.
The answer is probably that once the initial excitement and novelty wore off it became clear to many that Pokémon Go is actually not a very good app. From launch it was buggy, with the location tracking and the ‘nearby’ feature failing pretty quickly.
Then there was the monopoly that quickly developed at gyms too, where some players stored up enormously powerful Pokémon that left them virtually unbeatable in battle.
Using the app and therefore location services was also cataclysmic for battery life. Mobile charger sales rocketed as a result.
Fixes were issued, but the damage had been done and the interest lost.
According to the astonishing figures, the game was downloaded more than 10 million times within it first week of release – the fastest uptake of any app ever and quickly surpassed Candy Crush Saga as the most active mobile game ever in the US.
While the number of downloads for “Pokémon Go” reached 100 million on Aug. 1, what the headlines don’t tell is that the bulk of those downloads was on the game’s release day. The number of downloads and daily users had been slowly decreasing since July.
Many players began to quit out of frustration, and the usage numbers fell from 25 million daily users on July 14 to 22 million daily users on July 20, according to statistics by Survey Monkey. Pokémon Go lost 3 million users in a matter of six days.
Parks were full, running clubs were full of players who wanted to work out while hatching eggs or looking for that elusive Jiggly puff. Police notices were issued in countries around the world urging players to stop using the app while driving, or trespassing into dangerous or restricted areas in search of Pokémon.
This was no longer just a big game launch, but a cultural phenomenon.
But the truth is any resurgence is unlikely to be substantial.
Like any doomed romance, the world’s love affair with Pokémon Go was dramatic and fleeting, but left a lasting impression. Augmented reality gaming is no longer a phrase with no meaning to most of us, it’s a tag line that might just tempt you to download the next app you see using it, just in case it’s the next great craze.
What was once a phenomenon may have sabotaged itself into becoming a passing fad? Can the game make a comeback? Only time will tell.
If not, we’ll always have the summer of 2016.