Oh, How the Pokemon Mighty Have Fallen


It could have been great. A thing of wonder unlike anything else out there on the market. It was new! It was fresh! And it was exciting. I remember waiting impatiently for the Canadian launch of Pokemon Go, and when it came it was like Christmas. I went outside and started throwing some Pokeballs around and enjoyed myself for quite sometime. Others were on the streets at the same time as me. We would see the flash of each other’s screen, smile knowingly at one another and carry on. The first time, my wife and I placed a lure at our local stop and we quickly had strangers come join us. We struck up some fun conversations, gained and gave some knowledge of the Pokemon in the area and then went on our way.

It was great.

Yet, Pokemon Go had its faults. Gyms were rudimentary and could never be sustained. Catching Pokemon required no strategy or skill, unlike the real Pokemon game. One could never challenge another trainer to do battle or train. It was not a real world Pokemon. Calling yourself a location-based game and having the store where your players spend real money be global and ever active is a money grab. Where are my gym badges? Why can I not actually progress as a trainer, gain skill with my Pokemon? WHERE ARE THE POKEMON TOURNAMENTS I DREAM OF? The roaring crowds, the trust and skill that I build with my Pokemon paying off as we outmatch our opponent to victory. WHY IS THIS NOT AN eSPORT? It was not the Pokemon Go that I saw possible in my last post. The future is out of reach for Pokemon Go.

Sadly, Niantic has been too slow to implement changes that could make their game more than a fad. Niantic has started to talk a big game. Releasing Legendary Pokemon (more Pokemon are not going to fix the underlying player engagement issues), live events (not tournaments, do not read too much into Niantic’s comments on live events as they do not mean Ash-style battle tournaments), walking your Pokemon (One candy for every 3 KM? Got a Magikarp then you get 1 for 5), maybe, just maybe tweaking the battle system. Maybe but probably not. Way too little, way too late. Why release a game in beta and call it done? Least viable product strategy may not be the best for games of this size.

With daily users down 40%, yes, I now believe Pokemon Go will go down in fad history. But do not let yourself feel total and complete remorse. Pokemon Go achieved something great, it (almost forcibly) introduced us to the Augmented Reality games. If you’re enjoying it, keep doing so. For me, I’ll keep my ear to the ground but don’t have high hopes.

Pokemon Go’s initial success shows that the world is looking for something more in their mobile gaming experience. They want something real, tangible, augmented even. I can see other companies taking notice of how Pokemon Go was so successful, and how it started to fail. The augment was there, the reality was there, yet it lacked fullness, completeness. It was Augmented Reality lite, Augmented Reality beta, whatever you want to call it.

The future of Augmented Reality is going to be bright and beautiful. Engaging and interesting.

Our next article will talk about the two franchises we think could take Augmented Reality to the next level.