Pokémon Go has dominated the news cycle since its release, and surely has many, many development houses scrambling to come up with something similar. But will the wildly popular game fade into obscurity before we know it?
Pokémon Go is an unprecedented phenomenon in the countries where it’s so far been released. With barely any marketing effort from Nintendo or the Pokémon Company, the game has dominated news and social media cycles and earned untold millions for its creators. Presidential candidates are telling awful mom jokes about it on the campaign trail, churches are trying to leverage the game to build their congregations, and even news headlines that have nothing to do with the game are obnoxiously leaning on its name value for clicks (“Don’t worry, this article isn’t about Pokemon Go!“).
The popularity and cultural influence of the aging Pokémon franchise had been gradually waning for some years, but with the release of Pokémon Go, the critter collecting game is all anyone seems able to talk about. And, of course, developers and marketers want a piece of the action, which means, for the foreseeable future, we’ll be seeing an onslaught of copycats on digital stores and marketing campaigns that try to leverage the game’s success and influence.
But maybe Pokémon Go‘s candle is burning just a little too bright?
The Pokémon name and the concept for Pokémon Go obviously hold long-lasting universal appeal, but how the developers and producers of the title handle the inner workings of the game may determine whether Pokémon Go remains a fixture on users’ phones for years to come, or rapidly fades into obscurity.
The first strike against Pokémon Go is its simple game mechanics. Casual users are likely to quickly become bored with catching the same monsters over and over again, and the battle mechanics of the game are too simplistic to hold much interest for traditional Pokémon fans and hardcore gamers. Two of the highest grossing mobile games of all time – Monster Strike and Puzzle & Dragon – both feature similar monster collecting themes, but bolster that concept with significantly deeper strategy. Those titles also feature endlessly updated creature rosters to keep the collecting theme fresh for long-term players, while Nintendo has, at most, a stable of 729 monsters, accrued over the franchise’s decades of life, to dip into for updates (Monster Strike, in just three years, has already introduced 2,200 monsters, as well as a steady drip of new battle mechanics).
Then there’s the controversy; Pokémon Go players have already run across dead bodies, been hit by cars, fallen off cliffs, crashed into trees, apparently been mugged while playing the game, Pokémon are appearing in inappropriate places like Holocaust museums, enormous congregations of Go players have caused a nuisance in public spaces, and the list goes on. While parents and pundits have long lamented video games as a largely sedentary hobby, how many of them now find themselves wishing gamers would just stay the hell inside? These controversies are sure to land the developers in at least a few legal quagmires, and they’ll need to address these issues with more than just a loading screen that warns to pay attention to your surroundings while playing.
Lastly, simple overexposure could spell a premature end for Pokémon Go and all its copycat hopefuls in a matter of months. It’s a good bet many of you reading this are already sick of hearing about Pokémon Go at every turn, and it’s only been a little over a week since release. Marketers are sure to leverage the game’s success and brand power in increasingly cheesy ways and, whatever your beliefs on Hillary Clinton politically, we can all agree she’s not exactly the arbiter of cool – so when she and other politicians are co-opting the brand for bad mom jokes and petty and groan-inducing attack ads, it could be only a matter of time before consumers stop seeing Pokémon Go as the hip alternative to more traditional mobile gaming titles.
Nintendo and developers Niantic have apparently promised rolling updates and support for the game, but it’s so far unclear what this means; whether it will be new monsters, new mechanics (outside of a promised future trading ability), or just troubleshooting patches. A combination of the three will potentially be necessary for the game to stay relevant.