The game of the Summer, by complete surprise to pretty much everyone everywhere; even those clued in upon everything Pokémon were cautious of this game. Jumping from the handheld games where Pokémon were levelled up by turn-based battling, to having Pokémon being levelled up by capturing the same Pokémon a potential 101 times (Magikarp, we’re looking at you) seemed daunting and quite exhausting. But somehow, to the great surprise of this community, Pokémon GO exploded to be a worldwide phenomenon and quite possibly the biggest mobile app release ever.
Stifled by faulty features, a genuine lack of content and communication however, many believe people’s interest has dropped and so the app has failed – but recent survey data from SurveyMonkey show this is far from the truth. Whilst it is a considerable drop – at its peak of around 54M users, and now down to around 26M – this is still an incredibly large number, particularly when compared to other F2P games such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga.
“many believe people’s interest has dropped and so the app has failed”
So what’s brought on this surge and subsequent crash? Is it really the nostalgia of Pokémon bringing in the sense of wonder when playing the game? The hybrid augmented reality technology represents many of the ideas the original creator Satoshi Tajiri envisioned at the time of Pokémon’s creation, of exploring new areas and discovering new things. We live in a time of nostalgia – particularly within gaming, with the constant stream of remakes and remasters – but also in wider life, such as with 80s fashion reappearing amongst a younger generation enjoying an aesthetic only our parents really experienced. Media concern over use of social media and mobile phones has been suddenly shifted by the strange emergence of a technology that encouraged outdoor exploration. Mobile use makes the game feel more productive, intuitive and most of all, a physical experience, something which the upcoming VR experiences are tending towards. Why put on a headset and see Batman from a first-person perspective when you can catch Pokémon out in the fresh air whilst playing with real people and genuinely working together?
All of this culminates to an interesting perspective on the use of modern technology to rejuvenate old ideas and bring them into new contexts. As the most easily accessible medium for particularly the younger generation, a free app for a mobile device is a quick and easy way to make a product readily available for a large audience base. This is more difficult for main series games, which typically require a £100 investment, before the £30 game itself. So is it possible that this game serves as an indirect and gentle advert to the wider Pokémon games?
The introduction of Pokémon GO into the wider Pokémon ecosystem enters at a strange time for the community. After a two-year break from the main series games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are set to “bring 20 years of Pokémon together”. In the TV show, Ash has just lost to the newest region’s champion after beating their elite four, as the show also is set to relaunch with a new animation style. The new Pokémon Generations mini-episodes on YouTube cry of nostalgia to a once passionate fan base, and it feels Nintendo’s direction of appealing to this retro-style is resonating among video games fans, fatigued from sequels that prove less original than the previous.
What remains to be seen is how Pokémon GO will retain momentum in the coming months. After a successful Halloween drive, where revenue was boosted by over 100% in 5 days, upcoming updates involving daily and weekly goals could provide incentive for people to continue playing. This author believes however that without a group of friends around you playing alongside, Pokémon GO has no legs to stand on.