After 5 Years, Pokémon GO Is Still A Huge Success
It’s been 5 years since Pokémon GO launched, leading millions to go searching for Pokemon. Half a decade on and surprisingly the app is still going strong.
Pokémon has had a huge cultural impact with its games, collectables and TV series. Safe to say, in 2016 when a game launched allowing you to catch your own Pokémon and train them at gyms in the real world, millions were enamoured. The augmented reality game Pokémon GO was a huge hit.
Thousands could be seen walking around cities trying to catch their favourite Pokémon. In fact, a friend of mine spent the majority of a trip to Budapest looking hopelessly for a Pikachu. He later confessed he spent about £20 to aid this endeavour.
Despite the initial success of the app, it would be fair to say that the buzz, electro or otherwise, began to wear off. While there may not be mass gatherings of people out searching for Pokemon anymore –because of players moving on as well as multiple governments lockdown measures – the title is actually making more money than ever.
Pokémon GO has seen some highs and lows since its initial release. The app generated $207 million (USD) for the San-Fransico based developer Niantic in its first month, but this profitability wasn’t meant to last. The player base fell sharply across the first year of release, and after drawing in over 250 million people per month at launch, the game was being played by less than 50 million people by December.
Along with this decline in players, there was a slump in profits. Nonetheless, in 2020 the profitability of the game changed and on the back of this, it seems Pokémon GO is here to stay.
According to Business of Apps, Pokémon GO made $1.23 billion in 2020. This is significantly more than when it had a huge swell of players in its launch year resulting in $0.83 billion of revenue.
After a dip in 2017, the player base has also climbed back to 160 million. However, many will still be surprised that the game is making more money than ever before, particularly during a pandemic.
The game adjusted its strategy during the pandemic. Instead of encouraging people to walk around, Pokémon GO offered players incense effectiveness boosts while sitting around, gyms were accessible from further away and the game also dropped more gifts. This seemingly kept fans engaged when they were stuck indoors.
Nonetheless, the game released a blog post, explaining it will once again encourage people to go outdoors in 2021. Undoubtedly, this decision is designed to keep players engaged as some kind of normality resumes.
Pokémon GO has changed since its initial release, with the loot box eggs that hatch to become randomised Pokémon growing in popularity. Incubators required to hatch eggs also come at a cost after a number of uses. By doing this, the free to play app has managed to commodify parts of its gameplay and successfully become more profitable.
Naturally, there are plenty of people who have been angered by the game’s attempts to make people spend money on a product that isn’t guaranteed to be delivered. The loot box debate has led to considerations being made by governments to change gaming regulations. With this in mind, Pokémon GO may need to change up its revenue stream in the future.
For better or worse, five years on, Pokémon GO is doing better than ever. Whether this can continue remains to be seen, but it is clear the game wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
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