Is "Pokemon Go" Just a Fad?

by Emma Cueto

In July, "Pokemon Go" burst into the world and became an overnight sensation, with tens of millions of people living out their childhood dream of running around and catching Pokemon in the real world. But now in late August, data compiled by Axiom Capital Management shows that the number of "Pokemon Go" users is already declining. Is this an indication that the app was nothing more than a brief and intense fad? Or is this just a temporary slump before things even out now that they hype has died down?

"Pokemon Go" launched on July 6, 2016, and in under two weeks, the augmented reality game had around 45 million users. Out of nowhere, it seemed that "Pokemon Go" had conquered the world. You couldn't seem to go anywhere without tripping over someone trying to catch a Pokemon — including some places where people really should know better. Everyone was playing it — even the Westboro Baptist Church, usually the most out-of-touch organization in the country, got involved somehow.

Now, however, less than two months after launching, the game seems to be losing fans. As the BBC notes, no official figures on the download stats of "Pokemon Go" have been released; however, Axiom Capital Management's data suggests that from a peak of around 45 million users in mid-to-late July, the game has dropped only about 30 million users today — quite a large loss in the span of just a month. And those users who still have the app are becoming less and less engaged as well, reports Bloomberg. At this rate, "Pokemon Go" will be all but extinct by the end of the year. So much for buying your siblings a "Pokemon Go" Plus wearable for Christmas.

So will history remember "Pokemon Go" as just a blip on the radar, one of the few genuinely delightful things that happened in the otherwise bad-news-heavy year that has been 2016? There are plenty of reasons to think that the game might not stick around for the long term.

For one thing, playing isn't all that convenient. Unlike typical video games, which are readily accessible in the comfort of your living room, "Pokemon Go" requires users to, well, go. You have to walk around outside, and unless you own a "Pokemon Go" Plus wearable, you also have to be looking through your phone screen a lot while doing it. This can drain your battery pretty quickly, limiting your playing time considerably.

Plus, the game itself is, by nature, fairly repetitive, as even its early reviews pointed out. A lot of it involves doing the same thing over and over again. Dueling other players can certainly be exciting, but that occupies a comparatively small amount of the time you might spend playing "Pokemon Go." So once the initial excitement and novelty of running around throwing Pokeballs at Squirtles wears off, it can become fairly dull — and frustrating, given that the glitches have continued to be routine as well. So it's not unreasonable to think that "Pokemon Go" will quickly become a thing of the past.

However, there are also reasons to think that this decline isn't the first stage of a die-off after all.

For one thing, the astronomical popularity of "Pokemon Go" was unexpected, as well as probably never sustainable in the first place. The developer, Niantic, certainly never prepared for the game to be as popular as it became — which was a big reason there were so many technical difficulties. "Pokemon Go's" popularity was fueled in part by big news stories about the app, and a sizable number of people who downloaded it probably did so more out of curiosity than any innate desire to play. It's only logical that, now that the hype has died down somewhat, those users would take the app off their phones. It doesn't mean that everyone is going to abandon ship, just that the numbers were artificially inflated by people who were probably never going to stick around long-term anyway.

And this exodus might also improve user experience for those who remain, encouraging more people to stick around. With fewer people playing, there's less pressure on the servers, meaning they will hopefully crash less often.

Overall, there are still 30 million people playing "Pokemon Go," which is certainly not too shabby. Whether that number holds steady or continues to fall remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain — "Pokemon Go" has shown there is definitely a market for augmented reality games; so you can bet more will be coming.

Images: Giphy (2)