Has Pokémon GO outlived its relevancy? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Has Pokémon GO outlived its relevancy?

Pokémon GO fan Sam Nason examines whether the once-popular mobile game still has the relevancy it once did in 2018.

When released in July 2016, there was almost something transcending about Pokémon GO; amidst coursework, exams and essays, I remember running around town with friends just to catch a Pinser or the ever-elusive Lapras (I somehow ended my trainer career without capturing a single one, despite one of my friends capturing three. Damn you Holly). It was almost like we were all kids again - suddenly social boundaries were broken and I was part of a 120-person strong iMessage group chat dedicated solely to meeting up and playing Pokémon GO. Such festivities

Daily active users of the app had dropped by an estimated 80%
dwindled through the summer, and by autumn not a single person at my sixth form still talked about Pokémon GO - myself included. With the game recently launching in China and Generation 3 Pokémon roaming around the app, does Pokémon GO still maintain the relevancy it commanded back at its summer launch?

The short answer is - no. It was reported in April of last year that daily active users of the app had dropped by an estimated 80% since the boom in July, peaking at 28.5 million and dropping to as low as 5 million. While this data is many months old, it highlights the fact Pokémon GO, from July to April, did very little to capture and indulge the players they grabbed so easily within the first few weeks - a pattern that’s held up to this day.

Interestingly, at face value the content provided between July and April appears to be more than satisfactory - seasonal events, the Buddy system, quality of life changes and, most importantly, Generation II, certainly imply a game that is growing. The issue here, however, is that Niantic provided too little early on, neglecting their central player base and causing many to become disinterested in the app. From July to September, the only major change to the game was the adoption of the Buddy system, which acted only as a way for players to have their Pokémon gain experience slightly quicker; conceptually not too ground-breaking, but certainly a breath of fresh air in a game that hadn’t been provided fresh content within the past two months.

By the time Generation II was released in February 2017, there was no denying the vast majority of prospect trainers had been lost elsewhere, myself included. Personally, my main grievance with

5 million daily active players is still nothing to shrug your shoulders at
the game was the lack of communication between Niantic and the players. I remember in the summer there was a period where player-to-player battles were promised, trading was almost on the horizon, and legendaries were going to be in the game very soon. While the last did eventually come true, it’s quite telling to see that trading and battling - the two core mechanics of Pokémon - still have yet to see the light of day. Sparse official announcements and few updates made playing the game tiresome and monotonous - if Niantic weren’t interested in their game, why should we be?

Of course, this is a rather negative outlook from a person who has only dipped in and out of the game within the last year or so. After all, 5 million daily active players is still nothing to shrug your shoulders at. The counter to the absence of trading and battling is, of course, that Pokémon GO is a vastly different Pokémon experience to any of the traditional handheld titles. While catching them all is indisputably the core mantra of the series, one may argue this has taken a back seat in recent games to developing stories or the traditional gym challenge; in Pokémon GO the entire game is catching them all, and as such traditional Pokémon mechanics are cast aside and, to be honest, are not wholly necessary.

So while I’ve said previously Pokémon GO has never matched the relevancy it peaked with in July, that’s not to say it isn’t relevant full stop. It’s undeniable that there is still a large player base enjoying Niantic’s AR adventure, and it is also obvious Niantic are willing to support the game through updates that are still being delivered one and a half years since launch. From my point of view, the two factors that threaten the relevancy of the app are the speed of updates and communication between the developers and the players. Browsing over various fan forums, the most common topic I see is that ‘x feature is broken’ or ‘x still needs to be fixed’ - there is still lots of work to be done for the recognition Pokémon GO was previously given.

The fact remains, as previously stated, that Pokémon GO is a very different game to traditional Pokémon games, or traditional games in general. It is an app that is ever-expanding and has a wealth of new content in store - it’s just up to Niantic to realise it. Arguably very little substance

Niantic are willing to support the game through updates that are still being delivered one and a half years since launch
has been added to the core mechanics of the title in the year and a half it’s been up, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been intrigued by the new features (the Gen III Pokémon being added did, after all, provide the inspiration for this article).

Pokémon GO will never accomplish the numbers it did when it launched in July. But maybe that doesn’t matter. It’s undeniable the game has been an overwhelming success and has continued potential going forward, with an eager player base that (while a fraction of what it was in 2016) is loyal to the title. Pokémon GO may no longer have wide mainstream relevancy - but I always think that if a game brings you enjoyment and fun, that’s all the relevancy you need.

First Year English and Drama student, conquering one game at a time in between! (@samjnason)


19th January 2018 at 9:00 am

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