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



Where to find the best coffee

COFFEE snobbery is at an all-time high in Australia with the hipster movement carving a whole new breed of caffeine-loving consumers.

10 best street art spots to take an Insta selfie

Send yourself on a scavenger hunt around Brisbane to discover the incredible street art.

GET your phone and selfie-stick ready!

Where you need to be for the best live music

Don't miss these venues next time you're in Brisbane!

This city has a whole lot of places you need to check out.

Theatre royalty graces Brisbane stage

Don't miss Charles Edwards in this incredible theatre performance.

WHEN acting royalty comes to town, you sit up and take notice.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls…find them on these drives!

The Scenic Rim is just one place nearby that you'll love.

BRISBANE isn’t all bright lights and city slickers.

Your boots are made for walking these tours

Brisbane Greeters tours are a great way to learn the local history of the city.

YOU don’t need a bike or bus for a seriously good tour of Brisbane.

Discover Brisbane’s laneway gems

Brisbane's laneways will surprise you.

NOT all of Brisbane City is as it seems…

Plea to find driver who evaded police at 180kmh

WANTED: Police are searching for the driver of a car, similar to this one pictured, who evaded police.

Fears speedster putting others in danger

LNP Shadow Cabinet is coming to Bundaberg to talk to you

Queensland LNP's new leader Tim Nicholls and his deputy Deb Frecklington at Queensland Parliament, Brisbane, Friday, May 6, 2016. Nicholls has won a leadership spill against Lawrence Springborg. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt) NO ARCHIVING

Voice what's important to you at a community forum

Chance to have your photo displayed across Australia

WEATHER PICS: Have you taken a good one?

Winners could have their image displayed in homes across Australia

Local Partners

Holly Valance caught up in $213m lawsuit

FORMER Neighbours star Holly Valance has been named in a lawsuit involving sordid claims against her billionaire husband and his brother.

Lifesaver for a day: One-of-a-kind Coast tour

The Mooloolaba Surf Club is launching a new tour of the club and beach that educates visitors about life a as surf lifesaver. Getaway is filming a segment about the tour with presenter Charli Robinson.

Behind-the-scenes tour of surf club attracts television appearance

Bundaberg: No one does life like us

It's the spirit of Bundaberg and it's about to go global in a $20m campaign. With celebrities coming to the rum city to shoot new commercial.

The Rum City hits screens around Australia tonight

BOOKS: Superstition a central theme in new outback thriller

Author Cassandra Austin.

Cassandra Austin is celebrating the release of her second novel

Where you need to be for the best live music

Don't miss these venues next time you're in Brisbane!

This city has a whole lot of places you need to check out.

MKR recap: The secret ingredients to longevity and success

It’s chilli con carnage on MKR.

‘Turn up the heat’ means chillies. Lots of chillies.

MOVIE REVIEW: Logan doesn't pull any punches

THE WOLVERINE: Hugh Jackman in a scene from the movie Logan.

Gritty, real performances worth the gore in new X-Men movie.

Iconic North Coast post office up for sale

HISTORY: Nicole Swain is selling the historic Bangalow Post Office building this month.

Post office comes complete with the historic Lest We Forget clock

Opponents question Sekisui's 68% support claim

VIEW: An artist's impression of Sekisui House's proposal looking towards Mount Coolum.

Developer says it has 68% support, claims which raised some eyebrows

Old fireman's hall to make way for Maccas carpark

Workers remove the roof from the old firemans hall in Limestone Street in preparation for its demolition to extend the McDonald's carpark.

Demolition workers move in on Limestone St property

Major Burrum Heads development to go to vote

Site development plans for the proposed lot conversion at Burrum Heads, near Beach Dr.

Councillors will vote on the lot conversions.

Casino boss loses $4m on waterfront Sunshine Coast home

The owner of this stunning Noosa home accepted much less than he had initially wanted for the home.

When illness struck owner forced to try and cash out of property

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!