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‘Pokemon Go’ fervor has cooled, but the game isn’t dead yet

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016,12:15 IST By metrovaartha A A A

New York | Does “Pokemon Go” have a second act? The mobile phone app was an instant hit when it debuted in July.

Crowds stampeded after a Vaporeon in Central Park and people fell off cliffs playing it in California.

At an Apple event on September 7, Niantic CEO John Hanke said 500 million people had downloaded the game in just two months.

It was the first mobile game to go main stream in a big way since “Candy Crush” in 2014 or “Angry Birds” in 2012. It was also the first to incorporate augmented reality, a blending of the real and virtual worlds.

But the buzz has decidedly cooled. Last Tuesday, the game ended its reign as the top-grossing US iPhone app after 74 days on top, replaced by “Clash Royale,” a popular battling game, according to research firm Sensor Tower.

Twitter mentions of the game peaked at 1.7 million on July 11, five days after its launch, according to Adobe Digital Insights. That number had fallen by 98 per cent, to 131,000, by September 7, when Apple featured it.

Was it all a summer fever dream? While experts say the game is likely to remain popular for a while, it needs to evolve to have real staying power – just like its namesake digital creatures.

“Almost anything of this sort is a fad,” says Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “I think we’ve seen the tapering off.” Of course, an enormous number of people still play the game. Research firm App Annie estimates 1 in 10 smartphone owners in the US are playing; in Japan, that number is 1 in 4.

Those US figures are half what App Annie saw the week after the game launched, but to put them in perspective, they still reflect roughly the same user interest as Twitter or Pinterest.

“Pokemon Go” has also been good at keeping people playing after signing up. Its 30-day retention rate is the second best on the Google Play store behind “Words with Friends,” but ahead of other popular games such as “Clash of Clans” and “Clash Royale.”

“For a gaming app to be as big as a social network is unprecedented,” said Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, a spokesman at App Annie.

“Right now, yes, they’re losing a million players every week. But they get a million new players every week.”

The longer users interact with the game, the more time a company has to figure out how to get money from them, Nicolas said.

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