Throughout the Summer PokémonGo was undeniably the biggest mobile gaming app; generating 100 million downloads and $160 million within the first month alone. Like most, I was caught up in the Poké-hype and would find myself firing up the app when out and about to see which pocket-sized digital monsters were around me.
In the course of a month I reached level 22 and caught 86 different Pokémon. By no means was I a true Pokémon Master, I would probably fit under the ‘Moderate Pokémon Enthusiast’ category. Nevertheless I enjoyed the game and on a number of occasions I was told to put my phone away when I was out with friends and family.
However, fast-forward just a few months later and the app remains unopened, untouched and found itself relegated to my folder of forgotten games (sorry Flappy Bird!).
The app still remains hugely popular and profitable but for me there were a number of ongoing issues with the game that meant it was only ever destined to be a short-term craze.
The early warnings signs to the game for me was the apparent bias the game had towards those that lived in cities or larger towns. I first downloaded the game whilst I was in London and was mesmerised by the amount of PokéStops, gyms and active lures surrounding me. This instantly made the game more enticing and exciting. However, when I returned home to a small town in Surrey, I was hit with the reality that this game wasn’t meant for the suburbs.
In London I was surrounded by dozens of PokéStops and Gyms but back home there were three PokéStops and two gyms within walking distance of my house. I don’t particularly live in the middle of nowhere so could only imagine the lack of options to a player that lived in a more rural location.
Whilst the game was free to download and you could arguably play without spending a single penny of real world money, those that did had a clear advantage. Particularly for those that didn’t live in thriving cities with access to dozens of PokéStops, and therefore free resources, paying was the only option to ensure you had enough PokéBalls to catch Pokémon out in the wild.
I admit I handed over my hard-earned cash to invest in more egg incubators as the free version only gives you one to use an infinite amount of times. As I said before, you could easily play for free and only hatch one egg at a time but paying for incubators meant that I was able to hatch nine at a time. The game has a clear bias towards those that are willing to spend for incubators, PokéBalls, lures and lucky eggs.
Unnecessary Updates and Downgrades
All apps utilise updates to keep them new and maintain user engagement. However, Niantic could quite easily run a masterclass on how not to update an app. The internet went into meltdown when it removed its Pokémon Tracking system that showed the player all the nearby critters. The tracking was far from perfect and most of the time was pretty unreliable. However, many players opted to use third-party applications that Niantic subsequently disabled by removing data access of these apps.
In addition, the developer’s latest update means that if the app senses you are in a moving car, travelling more than 30 mph, no nearby Pokémon will spawn. Whilst this move was to discourage users from playing the game while driving (which it already warned when opened and, y’know, common sense), it meant that if you are the passenger in a car or on a bus through town, the game is essentially obsolete.
Effort vs Reward
The final nail in the coffin for me playing Pokémon Go was the amount of effort put into the game and the reward gained. For example, I’ve lost count how many times I walked 2km or 5km to hatch an egg (and yes, I actually walked), only to be rewarded with a bog-standard Weedle or a mundane Pidgey. Of course there were times when a glorious Pikachu or Charmander would sprout from the bright lights of a newly-hatched egg but these occasions were few and far between and ultimately made me feel like I was putting in more effort than was I being rewarded for.
Even when the game launched its Pokémon Buddy System, whereby you select a Pokémon companion that can accompany you as you walk around to gain candy, it felt unrewarding. Essentially this system would allow you to acquire Pokémon specific candy which is particularly handy for those rarer species. However, to gain just one candy you have to walk 1km and whilst that is hardly a marathon, in theory you would have to travel 50km (31 miles) just to be able to evolve your Pikachu into it’s not as beach ready counterpart, Raichu.