Despite its flaws, Pokemon Go immediately became an overnight sensation when it was released last July. Although the numbers have seen a steady decline, Pokemon Go still has thousands players booting the game every day, translating to millions of dollars for Niantic, the game’s developer. Niantic also recently padded the game with Daily Quests aimed to entice players to play the game every single day.
We don’t know yet how the new feature will drive up the in-game purchases. But it’s safe to assume it will further boost Pokemon Go to reach even more record-breaking milestones. In less than six months, Pokemon Go has already pocketed half-a-billion dollars. This is made even more impressive by the fact that Nintendo never really had a hand in the game, and that Niantic is relatively new to mobile gaming.
And get this: Niantic is just getting started. Pokemon Go still doesn’t have the rest of the current Pokedex on-hand. The game “only” has 151 Pokemon out of the current 721, which is set to grow even further with the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon.
Niantic successfully launched its first-ever special event late last month, with perhaps another two before the year ends (Thanksgiving and Christmas). The Daily Quests feature has been received positively. Rumors also say that Ditto, the still-missing five legendary Pokemon, and the much-anticipated second-gen Pokemon, along with PVP battling and trading, are already on the way. Which should be good news for players. But before looking way ahead, let’s check out first why Pokemon Go even became a massive hit in the first place.
An excellent freemium model
Pokemon Go is a free-to-play game with in-game purchases. The former is a bit surprising considering Pokemon is owned by Nintendo, one of the three biggest names in the video game industry. And with a company as established as Nintendo, you would have thought Pokemon Go ought to come with a price tag. That wasn’t the case, which actually worked in favor of Niantic and the game’s publisher, The Pokemon Company.
The lack of a price tag allowed more people to access the game, which helped boost the game’s overall visibility. Let’s face it: People are more willing to pick up a free game than a paid one, regardless of popularity. Of course, Pokemon Go isn’t entirely free, which leads us to the latter: in-game purchases. Unlike its free-to-play status, having an in-game shop that requires real-world money isn’t really surprising. It’s quite normal for a mobile game to have in-game purchases, actually.
And like most mobile games, the in-game purchases made playing the game easier. However, it can be argued that the items in the Pokemon Go shop are necessary for the game, instead of an advantage. The most notable example of this are Pokeballs. Pokeballs are obviously used to catch Pokemon. And thanks to how the gameplay was built, players catch Pokemon at a much higher rate than in the main games. Which leads to players running out of Pokeballs quickly.
Yes, PokeStops are a great source for free Pokeballs. But isn’t it more convenient to simply buy Pokeballs off the in-game shop? Well, assuming you have money to spare, that is. This excellent freemium business model has allowed Niantic to offset the game’s lack of a price tag. If you want a more efficient way to spend real-world money, you can buy a Pokemon Go account instead and dive into the thick of things without breaking a sweat.
Free social media marketing
As with many other things these days, social media gave Pokemon Go a huge boost in popularity. It’s the primary reason why a lot of casuals that have never even heard of Pokemon before excitedly jumped on the bandwagon. Remember all those social media posts about players catching certain Pokemon at unusual places? You can bet that the curiosity of a lot of people were piqued simply by a single social media post. Imagine seeing dozens of those every day.
Pokemon Go has lost millions of players over the last two months. And it’s a good bet that most of those are players who really don’t have interest in Pokemon and were only following the trend. Regardless, there’s no denying the effect of social media in spreading the word about Pokemon Go. And the funny thing is that Niantic didn’t even have to spend a single dollar for it. People were advertising the game for free simply through Facebook posts or Snapchats.
It’s a “new” gaming experience
And by “new” we mean the augmented reality (AR) aspect of Pokemon Go. The technology has already been around for quite some time before the game was released. Heck, Niantic even had another AR-based game, Ingress, prior to Pokemon Go. But for most, an AR-based game is a new thing. And we all know how people get easily curious with a new development in the tech world.
For longtime fans, Pokemon Go was the very game they’ve been dreaming about ever since Pokemon Red and Blue. The game allowed them to actually catch (virtual) Pokemon in the real world and aspire to become the very best like no one ever was. Pokemon Go was more than just a curiosity for them. The game also served as a great way to break away from the tried-and-tested Pokemon formula seen in the main games.
For casuals, Pokemon Go was simply a shiny new thing, especially in a mobile gaming industry littered with endless runners, match-three puzzle games and a horde of Mario copycat platformers. So the chance to experience something new on-the-go was too good to pass up. This led to them giving Pokemon Go a try even though they’ve never even heard of Pikachu and the gang. Yes, the gameplay of Pokemon Go is very repetitive and can get boring fast. But the fact that it offers something not typically seen in the mobile gaming world can’t be denied.
There are other reasons why Pokemon Go became a massive hit. These are just the most notable ones. There’s no telling just how far Niantic can take the game. It’s not like Pokemon Go has a replay value in the same vein as League of Legends, which offers an almost endless gameplay. Even if Pokemon Go ceases to exist this very moment, the game has already made a mark that can’t be easily forgotten.