Trends in gaming can be finicky things. They can sometimes last well over a year, or can die out within a few weeks. For every League of Legends, there’s a Farmville waiting on the other side. More often than not, games that fall to the wayside after just a few weeks are left to die and the playerbase evaporates over time. Whether we’re talking about Flappy Bird or Apex Legends, the result is almost always the same.
However, on some occasions, after a game peaks, the developers stay focused on making the product even better – not in an attempt to bring back to fairweather fans who jumped on the bandwagon, but instead, to impress and hold onto the players who stuck around after those initial phases of excitement.
Perhaps the most notable example of this premise lies in Pokémon Go. The game experienced its peak after it felt a serious wave of influx after its launch in July of 2016. There was a solid 3-4 weeks where Pokémon Go was the most popular cultural phenomenon in the world. You couldn’t walk 10 feet in any populated area without encountering someone staring and swiping at their phone trying to catch Pokémon.
2016 truly played host to the “Summer of Pokémon”. The game swept across the world in a more convincing manner than any game had before. For the first time in a long time, “real life” felt the heavy impact of gaming. Longtime fans of the series were able to experience the franchise in a brand new way, while casual players who had their curiosity engaged through incredible amounts of hype were swept up along the way. For a few weeks, the world was enamored with Pokémon. When you look at 2016 as a whole, and even the entire decade in review, it’s hard to argue that any other game had as big of a cultural impact as Pokémon Go did.
And of course, the game lost a vast majority of its playerbase when the colder months came and the hype died down, but a strong portion of that same population stuck around to see what would happen next. There’s a chance that almost everyone reading this article had Pokémon Go installed on their phones back in 2016, but haven’t touched the game since. However, those who stayed understood that the game had room to grow and the coming years would prove whether or not Pokémon Go was simply a cash grab or a genuine force in the mobile gaming sphere.
Three and a half years later, it’s clear that it’s the latter.
Instead of folding up and collecting their winnings after the hype died down, Niantic invested even more time and resources into Pokémon Go, expanding the title into a game instead of a fad. Those who stuck around were treated to a ridiculous amount of new features as the game became so much more than it was at launch.
Between new generations of Pokémon, the additions of legendary and shiny Pokémon, the emergence of PvP and raiding systems, as well as a full blown expansion of the game’s social structure, there’s been an incredible amount of additions to Pokémon Go that you might have missed if you jumped ship after the game’s initial stages.
It’s obvious that Niantic cares about Pokémon Go. And they most definitely should. Over the course of the game’s lifespan, the title has made over 2.5 billion dollars in total revenue while Niantic was recently valued at just about $4 billion. On average, Pokémon Go reels in close to 11 million unique players on a monthly average, making it one of the most used gaming apps in the world. And while that’s a far cry from its peak of ~45 million users worldwide back in the summer of 2016, it’s still impressive that the game has remained a cultural icon throughout a strong portion of the decade.
That’s not to say that the fact the game has remained popular is enough to warrant a “Game of the Decade” award on the spot. Hell, Super Smash Bros. Melee has remained relevant for 20 years, but you won’t see that game winning any awards in 2020. What makes Pokémon Go a serious contender for the designation of “game of the decade” is the fact that it not only dominated its release year, spawning one of the most recognizable turning points at the crossroads of culture and gaming, but that it continued to expand upon its strong foundation as the decade marched on.
And now, as the 2010’s come to a close, it’s clear that while Pokémon Go didn’t have as much “oomph” as a traditional game, it’s still impressive that a mobile title could bring the world together in such impressive fashion – and still live to tell the tale of its incredible success and shining moments years down the road.
Photo Credit: Niantic, Pokémon Go, The Pokémon Company