Entertainment

Pokemon 'Gone': Three lessons to learn from 'fad'

Pokemon Go fans in Hervey Bay.
Pokemon Go fans in Hervey Bay. Lauren Smit

Pokémon Go is in rapid decline. Since launching in July and soaring in popularity, it had lost at least a third of its daily users by the middle of August.

By mid-September, daily revenues had fallen from US$16m per day to US$2m (excluding the 30% app store fee) and daily downloads had declined from a peak of 27 million to 700,000.

Of course, many mobile games - especially ones that trigger a worldwide craze - suffer declines in usage over time.

Pokémon Go still generates significant revenues. But its precipitous decline has seen it labelled a fad and nicknamed "Pokémon Gone".

This raises the question of why usage has dropped so steeply, and what other game companies might do differently to retain users.

In my opinion, Pokémon Go's creators Niantic have made several significant missteps. Here are the lessons that other companies can learn.

Have a clear avenue to capitalise quickly

Pokémon Go launched with relatively little actual "game", and by the end of July was still arguably missing a lot of features.

The launch version enabled players to collect Pokémon characters while out roaming in the real world. But it featured shallower gameplay than its siblings on Nintendo's gaming platforms.

For example, the mechanisms for battling Pokémon were relatively simplistic, with arbitrary-seeming controls. Furthermore, there was no way for people to interact in real time in the game.

This is not a problem if the aim is to get as many players to sign up as possible, but it is an issue when trying to keep them interested.

The developers did not introduce new elements quickly enough to stop players getting bored.

So far there has been little in the way of new gameplay aspects, with the most significant addition being in the form of hardware: a Pokémon Go wearable device released last month.

The developers have pledged to allow players to choose a "buddy Pokémon" to accompany them in-game, although it is not clear how this will change the game's mechanics.

Nevertheless, by waiting so long after the game's launch, the developers have missed an opportunity to capitalise on their existing player base.

The obvious lesson for developers is to have a roadmap to enhance the game and keep players interested, especially when the core game itself is not very deep.

Pokemon Go master Nick Johnson visiting the Opera House
Pokemon Go master Nick Johnson visiting the Opera House

Do not remove popular features

Besides failing to introduce new features, Pokémon Go also removed popular ones. This is likely to alienate players, especially if done with little explanation - some commentators have branded the game "broken".

In Pokémon Go's case, the feature in question was "Pokémon tracking". A core aspect of the game is that it creates a virtual representation of the player's real-world location, which is then populated with Pokémon characters for players to collect by walking around.

But to catch Pokémon, players need to know where they are - and without Pokémon tracking, players are left wandering aimlessly and relying on luck to find them.

Pokémon tracking was relatively rudimentary in the game itself, and arguably did not work at all. This led several third parties to create their own Pokémon tracking apps that became crucial to dedicated players.

In other words, players accepted the original broken feature because third-party apps let them circumvent it.

A close-up view of the Pokemon Go game.
A close-up view of the Pokemon Go game. REMKO DE WAAL

However, the developer, Niantic, subsequently disabled these apps by cutting off their data access and sending them "cease and desist" orders. This effectively removed a feature that many players regarded as essential.

The developers have arguably repeated this gaffe by disabling the game for players with "rooted" android devices - a relatively common hack that lets phone users change their administrative settings or bypass restrictions imposed by telecommunications providers.

Pokémon Go has banned rooted devices so as to prevent "geo-spoofing", whereby players cheat the game by using software to fake their location.

But while the goal is valid, the implementation clearly has ramifications for many legitimate users.

The clear lesson is that a company should not remove features without first considering how essential they are to the user experience, and without offering an adequate replacement.

This lesson applies not just to gaming but to the wider consumer industry; companies should always know what their customers regard as essential, and should never undermine it without putting in place a clear workaround (or ideally, improvement).

Police are warning Pokemon Go players to do the right thing.
Police are warning Pokemon Go players to do the right thing.

Talk to your customers

Pokémon Go's decline has been characterised by a consistent lack of communication. The catalyst was arguably the removal of Pokémon tracking.

While far from ideal, this could have been managed with better communication, but instead some players were left so disillusioned that they requested refunds.

The developers did not forewarn of major (potentially negative) changes, and did not communicate afterwards, leading to the claim that "silence is killing Pokemon Go".

This has not been an isolated incident; the developers communicated only intermittently about server outages, offering very little information about why they had happened, how long the disruption was expected to last, or whether it was the work of hackers.

The final lesson is here is that communicating with your customers is paramount, particularly when things go wrong.

Otherwise, you risk losing their confidence that you care about them and know how to fix the problem.

If you have to make unpopular decisions, at least communicate the reason for those decisions and present a plan to assuage consumers' concerns.

Pokemon Go players at the Botanical Gardens, Coffs Harbour.Ian Corbett [Gardens Curator} with Aaron Patterson, Michael Drews and Jonothon Mackay playing the game.25  july  2016.
Pokemon Go players at the Botanical Gardens, Coffs Harbour.Ian Corbett [Gardens Curator} with Aaron Patterson, Michael Drews and Jonothon Mackay playing the game.25 july 2016. Leigh Jensen

Where to from here for Pokémon Go?

This all begs the question: how might Pokémon Go attempt to bounce back? This might be challenging, as Pokémon Go would both need to implement new features and make lapsed (and new) users aware of them.

One potential option is to increase social events, perhaps involving rare Pokémon placed in a given area. This might also generate more positive word of mouth, increase user engagement, and drive interest.

Pokémon Go could also expand into other markets, potentially rectifying the aforementioned issues when doing so. This includes a possible expansion into China and India.

This would be most effective if additional in-game features, such as in game battling, were implemented.

In this case, the game could start from a fresh base in new markets, while improving the game in existing markets.

Mark Humphery-Jenner is Associate Professor of Finance, UNSW Australia

This article first appeared here at The Conversation

Topics:  gaming pokemon go


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

A gem find for the ages

JOINT EFFORT: Roger Dunstan, Geoff Bilbow and John Campbell admiring their historic gem donation.

A gem find for the ages

Farmer's hailed for 'heroic' work

BRAVE ACT: Stephen and Gavin Scurr have been awarded a Local Heroes award by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Farmer's hailed for 'heroic' work

Caboolture kids bounce to Youth Comm Games

GOING FOR GOLD: Ben Schmidtchen has qualified for the 2017 Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas.

Caboolture kids bounce to Youth Comm Games

Local Partners

Beachmere on the road to nowhere

ROBERT Pritchard has been fighting for upgrades to Beachmere Rd for 34 years and says very little has been achieved in that time.

What to expect at Birds of Tokyo's Ipswich gig

The band will perform at the Racehorse Hotel on Friday.

BAND member Glen Sarangapany talks music, pub grub and doing shoeys

What public holidays are left in 2017

Ipswich residents will get the day off tomorrow for the show.

IPSWICH residents will get tomorrow off for the show

Caitlyn comes home to launch debut album

Gympie's Caitlyn Shadbolt will launch here debut album Songs On My Sleeve at an exclusive all-ages concert in Gympie on Friday, May 26.

Win tickets to Caitlyn's album launch

Boyfriend loses it over sex lie

SEVEN Year Switch’s Stacey told a fib about her sex life. When the lie found its way back to her boyfriend, there was hell to pay.

Why Crowe’s thankful for those ‘bulls**t’ rumours

Russell Crowe and Terri Irwin in 2007.

Crowe and Terri Irwin have been dodging dating rumours for years now

MOVIE REVIEW: King Arthur - Legend of the Sword

Charlie Hunnam in a scene from the movie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Why the critics have got Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur all wrong.

Concert death toll revised up to 22, tour suspended

There have been multiple confirmed deaths after 'explosions' heard at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester

"We saw blood on people when we got outside."

Casual Keanu says fame is ‘cool’

Keanu Reeves in a scene from the movie John Wick: Chapter 2.

NOBODY expected much of John Wick when it was released in 2014.

Ariana Grande breaks her silence after fatal blast

According to reports quoting witnesses, a mass emergency evacuation was prompted after explosions were heard at the end of US singer Ariana Grande's concert in the arena.

The entertainment industry is in shock after attack on concert

Pitch Perfect star suing Woman’s Day over ‘liar’ articles

Actor Rebel Wilson outside court on Friday.

REBEL Wilson's career destroyed by grubby campaign, court hears.

How Toowoomba house prices compare in Australia

For sale sign in front of home.

Here's what $700,000 will buy you in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Sydney

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

WATCH: Take a tour of a tradie's dream home

5a Bruce Hiskens Court, Norman Gardens, going for $720,000. INSET: Lea Taylor.

Huge block with potential for anything

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!