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Pokémon Go: One year on, what have we learned?

Pokémon Go: One year on, what have we learned?


July 6th 2016: A widely-anticipated augmented reality game hit the market, boasting over 6 million downloads on its first day alone. It became a global sensation from the moment the first trailer was released in September 2015. The game, developed by San Francisco based Niantic, Inc. was set to be the biggest and boldest of the year.

Today marks the one year Anniversary of Pokémon GO. The platform has now reportedly lost around 90% of its original users, according to some reports, a shocking downward trend which was the given the nickname, ‘Pokémon Gone’. So what have we learnt from this fleeting phenomenon that has left many disinterested so quickly?

The game charted as one of the highest grossing of the year, earning over £100 a minute and earning more cash than popular Apps Game of War: Fire Age and even the smartphone behemoth that is Clash of Clans. However, this figure has steadily fallen, and now the game only earns around £77 a minute. It could be argued that a drop like this is inevitable over time, but the game was still never able to make more money than its rival Candy Crush which was released in 2012 and today is still the top earner, making £116 a minute. Clearly the drop in support for Pokémon GO cannot be blamed on the time factor alone.

Picture taken by José María Mateos in Montreal, Canada

Across the year the app made headlines worldwide, but mostly for the wrong reasons. The vast number of accidents and even crimes related the phenomenon has contributed to the death of its reputation. The game has led to two men falling off a cliff while searching for Pokémon near the Pacific, and was reportedly the cause of a major car accident in Japan which killed a 72 year old citizen in August.

When the app first launched in July, it became the most downloaded app on the App Store of any app in their first week, but now, Pokémon GO is estimated to have only 148,000 users a day. When the game came out, it appeared to be the trendy, ‘in’ thing with everyone eager to hop on the bandwagon – me included. While trends do inevitably come and go, none have done so as rapidly as this one, and there have been many suggestions as to why this is.

Firstly, many claimed to have abandoned the game because it drains battery life. The app reportedly uses around 15% of battery when used for 30 minutes, while apps like Facebook only drain around 5% of battery when used for the same amount of time. The inconvenience caused by the app is arguably one of the reasons why it died so quickly – it was certainly one of the reasons why I deleted it.

Fans of the game claim to have lost interest because of the developer’s unpopular updates after the app was first released. The biggest grievances appear to have stemmed from Niantic choosing to remove the tracking feature, where the game would alert you as to how close you were to a desired Pokémon. This feature was removed when it interfered with servers, triggering a lot of complaints from the game’s core fan base.

The app was initially praised for its innovativeness in getting people to go outside and explore, rather than being another game which encouraged kids to laze around inside all day. However, in what was widely reported as the Hottest Year Ever, 2016 proved to be an unlucky launch year for the game, as temperatures warded many users off of venturing outside to catch Pokémon.

The sheer repetitiveness of the game also bored people fairly quickly. Unless you were in a city or busy area, you would rarely be able to find a rare Pokémon. One you caught a few Rattatas and Pidgeys, the process became much less rewarding. This also made the game appear unappealing to those who lived in rural areas and who were unable to get into the city on a regular basis.

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In the build-up to the one year Anniversary of Pokémon GO, Niantic have announced some big updates to stir up enthusiasm and to win back users. These include a brand new gym battle style, and co-op raid bosses. But the game still seems to be losing more and more fans as daily downloads have fallen from 27 million in July 2016 to around 700,000 today.

The sudden rise and fall of Pokémon GO has left many questions unanswered. The way in which it lost its fan base so unnaturally quickly shows how easily today’s audiences can become apathetic. The fact that Niantic never made an effort to reduce the game’s battery usage and removed popular features led many users to ditch the app for good. One of the only games to encourage people to explore the outdoors dying so rapidly is a reminder of the laziness of modern society. Perhaps most importantly, the horrific accidents and deaths related to the app makes its own suggestions about how dangerous huge fads like this really can be.

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