Aldo Agostinelli

When an interactive multimedia game like Pokémon Go is launched, we can always expect an initial wave of enthusiasm followed by a phase of adjustment and, eventually, a decrease in use.

However, the decrease in the number of players and income generated by the game, which is based on augmented reality and created by Niantic, is worth a deeper analysis. Some mistakes in its marketing strategy are actually causing a fast – too fast, indeed, considering the initial boom – decrease in the downloads of the game designed for smartphones and, hence, reduced profits for Niantic. As a result, some have already labeled it a “fad”, while others, including Techradar, have dubbed it Pokémon Gone (Pokemon Gone: how Pokemon Go can bring back lapsed trainers).

Following its debut last July, which was announced by means of a post on the official website , Pokémon Go took the world by storm and players flocked to download it. Just to give you an idea: 21 million people, in the United States only, downloaded it during the first week. Consequently, the value of Niantic shares rocketed, increasing by 120%.

After such peak in popularity, though, as pointed out by Bloomberg, (These charts show that Pokémon Go is already in decline) Pokémon Go had lost one third of its daily players by the end of August. And in September, revenue dropped from 16 million dollars per day to 2 million dollars, while downloads decreased from 27 million per day to 700 thousand.

It is worth pointing out that the game, over the first two months, had earned the record-breaking amount of about 530 million dollars. A huge amount of money which would satisfy any other company in the field.

Anyway, such a sudden drop has been brought about by a few silly mistakes which Niantic might have easily avoided and from which businesses with the foresight to avoid a “hit-and-run” policy, should learn from.

The first and most evident was weak planning concerning the launch of the game which was released when its software and technical features had not yet been fully developed. Pokémon Go appeared on the app market when some of its basic functions were showing some obvious shortcomings.  For instance, players could not interact live and its radar was not at all accurate (Nearby’ Tracking Is Still Broken In ‘Pokémon GO,’ And Might Be For A While).

New functions were added to the game over time, such as the possibility for players to partner with a Pokémon buddy, i.e. a Pokémon ally, during their scouting missions, with the aim of collecting the candies needed for their upgrade. Unfortunately, such new elements were introduced too late, and the fundamentals of the game were never developed accordingly.

It may be fine if you only mean to earn big money in a short time, but a long term financial strategy implies the need to keep players’ attention high.

The second, and more serious, mistake concerns the inability to identify and understand players’ needs and requirements. Take as an example the recent block of all third parties’ apps which allowed players to accurately locate Pokémon on a map. As previously said, the Pokémon Go radar is not accurate and cannot even tell players which way to go to catch the monsters.  Players wander aimlessly and, to track monsters down, they can only rely on their luck. Therefore such apps actually didn’t take anything from the game, on the contrary, they provided players with extra information, thus encouraging them to play more, to Niantic’s advantage. The company, instead, denied them access to its data and ordered developers to give up (Third-party Pokémon Go tracking services get shut down).

The lesson is clear: business should not remove functions from games without considering how essential they may be for players and without offering a suitable alternative solution.

The third huge mistake concerns communication. As highlighted by the American newspaper Cnet (Silence is killing Pokemon Go), Pokémon Go decline has been characterized by a consistent lack of communication between the company and the players.

Developers never notify players of server interruptions, upgrades or temporary black outs. As a consequence some people have requested a refund of the money spent  to purchase the gadgets needed to play the game.

At this point, only a relevant and prompt change of course may save Pokémon Go from players’ disaffection. And such re-evolution should start with communication: listening to players, communicating with them through social media, promoting conventions and gatherings and special events aimed at chasing the most sought after Pokémon, and especially replying to criticisms and observations posted among the comments on the app stores. This may be the only way to revive this game whose potential still appears to be almost unlimited.

What do you think about it? Send me your tweets at @AgostinelliAldo or share your thoughts here.

Aldo Agostinelli