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Pokémon Go isn't failing, your old rules don't apply here

If there's anything to take away from this misguided opinion piece (initially titled "What went wrong with Pokémon Go?"), it's this: if you focus too much on old-school metrics of success, you're not going to recognise actual success in the mobile gaming space.

This article annoys me for a few reasons, so allow me to critique each part:


The writer describes Pokémon Go as being in rapid decline, and blames Niantic's "missteps" for a lot of this. 

Firstly, if 1 in 4 of the world's smartphone users have downloaded your app, of course you'll see a rapid decline - millions of users will leave after the initial hype, but you'll still end up with tens of millions playing your game. 

Secondly, not only do all successful mobile games experience a decay curve in users, Pokémon Go has actually done a better job of retaining players than the likes of Candy Crush and Clash of Clans over the same time period after release.

Have a clear avenue to capitalise quickly

He goes on to describe its gameplay as simplistic and missing a lot of features.

Take a step back and look at the target audience - their ages would probably start around the 12-year-old mark if not younger. They'd also be targeting a lot of first-time gamers as well as introducing the general public to the concept of AR gaming. The simplicity is intentional to make the game as inclusive as possible. Pokémon Go's main strengths are that it appeals to a broad audience and that a great proportion of its users aren't typical gamers.

Then he says updates are made too slowly.

This is true in some ways, but doesn't mention the double-edged nature of updating - push an update out too fast before it's ready, and you risk permanently ruining your reputation. For an app like Pokémon Go, and the unprecedented technical challenge of having to cater to its massive user base, playing it safe to create solid updates would be preferable to taking a risk, pushing an update that isn't quite ready and potentially making its audience transition from impatient to angry.

"Do not remove popular features"

Of course not, but if cheating is an essential feature, then you shouldn't be making games. Also, "rooting" a device usually comes with a disclaimer that apps may not work as intended.

Talk to your customers

"The final lesson is here is that communicating with your customers is paramount, particularly when things go wrong." This is actually a valid point.

Where to from here for Pokémon Go?

"how might Pokémon Go attempt to bounce back?" Bounce back from what? If mobile gaming was simply a popularity contest, Niantic probably would need to prioritise getting its user numbers back up. But when it comes to mobile gaming, the old adage of the greater the user numbers, the greater its success no longer applies. Pokémon Go is still in good shape. There were actually points in the last month where its revenues increased despite a decrease in user numbers. Despite the stat the article says that "daily revenues had fallen from $16 million (NZ$22m) per day to $2m (NZ$2.7m)", it's actually plateauing to a sustainable level.  Also, that's still a lot of money per day. Its "daily downloads had declined from a peak of 27 million to 700,000", but consider it's a couple of months on from its release and that's still a lot of new users per day. 

Pokémon Go also hasn't launched everywhere yet, e.g. China and India. 

Not to mention, unlike the apps that have leapfrogged Pokémon Go in the various app stores, Niantic have yet to pour in millions of dollars into ads that feature movie-level special effects and the likes of Kate Upton, Mariah Carey, or Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Above all, what annoys me most about this article is that it treats Pokémon Go like a cautionary tale and fails to recognise Pokémon Go as a successful mobile game that is still successful.

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 $16 million (NZ$22m) per day to $2m (NZ$2.7m) (excluding the 30% app store fee) and daily downloads had declined from a peak of 27 million to 700,000.

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