In the quiet dawns of July 2016, the highly anticipated app Pokémon Go was released and slowly took over the world. The app broke barriers between gamers and jocks, parents and children, and nerds and sunlight. The statistics as of mid-August show numbers around 130 million downloads worldwide, $206.5 million of revenue in its first month, and on July 14th, an estimated 25 million active users engaged with the game. The app was nothing short of revolutionary, bringing a childhood dream to life for millions of millennials and parents who desperately wanted their kids to spend more time outside.
So how is it then, a game with so much influence and record-breaking statistics has turned into a whisper in the past two months? The game itself is still intact, so it is a user choice to let the hype die slowly, but there are multiple factors to the rise and fall of this legendary app.
In the beginning stages of Pokémon Go’s courtship with the users, it was difficult to see the monotonous trap the game offered. The app opens, it glitches, you groan but continue to wait, Gyrados warns you of your surroundings, the map appears with you standing in a deserted plain, the map loads and offers roads, the tracker loads and hints at nearby Pokémon, they’re all Rattata and Pidgey, you walk twenty yards in each direction, a different Pokémon appears, you catch it or you don’t, you continue walking. Granted, in the beginning, this monotony is exactly what would drive a user forward into childish frivolity; after all, these are Pokémon formerly only seen through the tiny lens of a Gameboy variety. Pokémon that eluded you, crept up on you in tall grass, fought for your honor, and made dear Professor Oak tear up from immense pride are now Pokémon which are hiding in your shower, on the hood of your car, and sitting in the cereal aisle. You’ve just gotta catch ‘em all…but catching all becomes increasingly more difficult and annoying when 90% of your choices are the same rats and birds every time.
Not to mention the unique aspects of the game, such as gyms and Pokéstops, only seem to add to the monotony by the second month of the game’s existence. Users learned to camp out and wait to drop their Pokémon as soon as a gym fell to a pale, gray fate. The Pokéstops offered the same rewards, but more often than not, you couldn’t celebrate those awards due to the bulging virtual backpack, allowing little room for hoarding. Little by little, users became…well, bored. A cruel word to use for a game with such potential, but true nonetheless.
Glitches and Bugs
With the sudden release of the game, it was expected, perhaps, that the news of the app’s arrival would slowly trickle around and users would begin to sign on. But with the high anticipation dating back to 2014, the release brought millions to their phones rapidly tapping away to enter the world of Pokémon Go. It is suspected that such a response led to the thousands of reports of servers crashing, apps closing, and crushed dreams. Within the first two weeks or so, the developers managed to grab the reins on this issue, but the bugs kept finding their way in, and I don’t mean the Caterpies and Weedles. The tracker that hinted and led you to your preyed-upon Pokémon became horribly inaccurate, eventually causing a tracker change all together that was not received with loving arms by the users.
There was also a substantial amount of loading inaccuracy for the maps, which made game play a bit more dangerous. Finally, one of the more upsetting glitches: the loading process. If a user managed to surpass the daunting load screen into the game, there were risks of the maps not updating fast enough to allow for you to find Pokémon. A pokéball could be thrown that would then stall, leaving the user to close the game and surrender their catch. These glitches were frustrating at first, but not threatening. However, as the glitches grew more frequent and there were few signs of them being controlled, the threat grew and caused the game to become too annoying to use. These issues, complaints, and support groups can be found on this Reddit page.
Similar to the issue of monotony, the lack of progress the game offered began to push interest away. With the same Pokémon appearing, the same mechanics of battling at a gym, the same Pokéstops waiting on the same streets, and little to no news of what’s to come, the users didn’t have enough to anticipate. With games such as Two Dots or Candy Crush, the users have new levels and growing obstacles to anticipate with each update. Pokémon Go’s few updates that have been released generally tackle the bugs and glitches, but do not bring new aspects to the game. There is rumor of the later generations of Pokémon being added in eventually, and perhaps the chance to battle and trade with nearby strangers or friends, but the app doesn’t seem to be meeting the interest needs of the users fast enough.
I predict that Pokémon Go will remain on millions of phones and will be visited every now and again, but it will grow dormant within the next few months. When a major update is released and offers new aspects to game play and Pokémon collection, the app’s usage will grow for a number of days, but decline again as it has now. Perhaps the developers should take a note from Uncle Ben: with great power comes great responsibility.