Many developers spend piles of time, money, and souls developing games that, despite being good, ultimately flop. So how is it that Pokemon Go can fail at every turn and still be one of the top mobile games in the world?
It has been one year since Pokemon Go was released with insufficient servers, poor balancing, and a tracking system that took forums of geeks to decipher. After a year of patches and fixes, it seemed Pokemon Go was on the up. Gyms are actually fun now, eggs are worth hatching, and raids give players a fun new way to catch Pokemon with their friends. To top it all off, the Pokemon Go Festival was to be the pinnacle of this year’s accomplishments.
Then, it turned into a massive failure of epic proportions that both mirrored and surpassed Pokemon Go’s launch woes. Once again plagued by failed servers, authentication issues, and bugs, Niantic traded in its lawsuits on virtual trespassing for lawsuits demanding reimbursed travel expenses.
Yet, as of this writing, Pokemon Go still sits at the top of the mountain as the highest grossing app on android, according to App Annie.
So how is it that Pokemon Go can succeed through failures where others fail through successes? (Don’t worry, it makes sense if you squint.) Here are some of my theories:
Pokemon Go Fulfills Childhood Dreams
This one is obvious. It’s the reason most 90’s kids downloaded the app in the first place. Building on the success of the original franchise, Pokemon Go offers to deliver what every Pokemon kid has dreamed of since childhood: catching Pokemon friends in the real world.
While it may have fallen short of the mark in the eyes of some, it was enough to get over 100+ million people to download the app on Android alone. Now ask any app developer and they’ll tell you that’s half the battle itself.
You Can Choose How You Play
Forget Team Mystic vs. Team Instinct vs. Team Valor. Pokemon Go really boils down to two teams: Competitors vs. Collectors.
Do you like tracking down the rarest Pokemon to complete your collection? Or perhaps you enjoy roaming the streets at night, wiping out every gym in the way? Either playstyle is perfectly fun and viable in Pokemon Go. I’ve met players who have never battled a gym in their life. I’ve met players who only catch Pokemon for the stardust. And both sets of players have plenty to keep them busy and gain themselves levels. In this way, Pokemon Go brings two very different types of players together. Of course, it also caters to the inbetweeners: why pick one when you can have both?
Once you’re in, you’re invested. Like any good MMO that takes over gamers’ souls, Pokemon Go lets players build a collection of Pokemon and gyms that make them care about grooming and maintaining their hard-earned place in their virtual world.
“Want to go to the movies?”
“Sure. But I’ve gotta swing by the local church first to take back my gym.”
And it’s not only the Pokemon and gyms that keep players hooked. It’s the social aspect. Right when you think you are ready to uninstall the game and walk away forever, your friend shows up with a shiny new Articuno and the next thing you know you’re back in the game.
It’s The Only Game Approved By Your Doctor and Your Mom
Let’s face it, most games aren’t good for our health. The internet is flooded with articles about how sitting in front of a screen for hours is a no-no. And of course, our moms read those articles. However, Pokemon Go is one of the few games you can throw back at the naysayers.
“Ha! I’m going outside to play video games! And you can’t stop me!”
It’s always satisfying when Mom can’t say no to your fun.
Pokemon Go Appeals to a Wide Audience
For all of these reasons and more, Pokemon Go has brought a wide range of people together. From indoor people to outdoor people. From young kids in shorts who want to catch all the Rattata to elderly couples who want an excuse to walk through the park. From casual to hardcore. This app has enough variety to appeal to every type of player.
In my time playing Pokemon Go, I have met folks who have never played a main series Pokemon game. These people find themselves roaming the streets catching critters whose names they couldn’t pronounce to save their lives. Yet, here they are, meeting strangers and playfully arguing over how to pronounce “Ponyta.” Pokemon Go succeeded in winning over players that even the main series Pokemon games couldn’t secure. What other spinoff game can say that?
Of course, there may be more variables at work here than we can fathom. Perhaps we are being manipulated by our robot overlords. Perhaps it’s a government conspiracy to keep our fat butts healthy and happy. That’s the thing about the secret sauce: it’s secret. If everyone had the recipe to success dialed in, making a hit game would be easy. Though as any developer in the industry will tell you, the recipe itself is still elusive. And yet, despite its many trials and tribulations, Pokemon Go managed to find that golden ticket.
What about you, oh reader of mine? Are you glad Pokemon Go is so popular? Or does it grind your gears that “better” games haven’t taken its place? Let us know in the comments.