The rise and fall of Pokémon GO

Libby Blackwell explores the rise and fall of mobile app Pokémon GO

The global phenomenon, Pokémon GO, was released to UK mobile devices on the 14th of July 2016. Pokémon GO is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices.

The game’s first release was beyond popular. The servers would crash and boot fans out as many keen players flooded to their respected app stores for the download. Since release, 6,100,000 UK devices have had Pokémon GO installed (According to yougov), however, does the app still get played on these devices?

The answer simply is no. Yougov have suggested that an average of 5,300,000 players still actually play Pokémon GO. However, the number has more than likely dropped lower, as that information is now over a year old.

From my own personal experience with the game and from being in a handful of Pokémon GO Facebook groups, one factor which turned a lot of players off was the lack of respect rural players got. I am a rural player myself, so I understand this frustration. Common Pokémon such as Pidgey’s, Rattatas and Eevee’s would only ever spawn. For players to fill up their Pokédex (an index containing information on all species of Pokémon), travelling to cities and populated towns were a given. They granted a lot of different rarities of Pokémon and allowed players to fill their Pokédex quicker. To this day Niantic still fails to fully acknowledge the frustration rural players have.

Another element which turned a lot of players away was a certain update Niantic released across all mobile devices. Niantic had implemented a ‘footstep finder’ into the game which allowed the player to see how close they were to a wild Pokémon. Despite this being broken in game, Niantic didn’t fix it. Instead, they removed it completely from the game, so the nearby list now will tell you what Pokémon are close by but give you no indication as to where they are. Instead, you are forced by the game to walk around aimlessly and hope for the best! In hindsight, they broke it even more.

Pokémon GO Fest (A celebration of the first year of Pokémon GO), took place in downtown Chicago, Illinois, USA at Grant Park on July 22, 2017. Niantic charged players to attend this event if they were not invited. However, the event flopped pretty hard and they made headlines. As the event took place, the servers couldn’t handle so many players online at once and most people who attended the event were locked out of the app for up to 2 to 3 hours. Some unlucky people were locked out for the whole day! This caused an uproar and a lot of apologising from Niantic.

Knowing their once dedicated fans were losing interest in the game, they tried their best to implement new features. However, these extra snazzy raid battles and gym battles came to no avail and Pokémon GO had lost a lot of its audience already.

Overall, Pokémon GO was a great game when it was at its peak. Unfortunately, Niantic cannot win their audience back. Too much time has passed now and unfortunately, Pokémon GO isn’t considered as relevant as it was in summer last year.