Significantly fewer people have been staring down at their phones as they walk around a popular location. The reason? The interest in Pokémon GO in the U.S. has dramatically decreased over the past two months. The app’s downfall is the result of many flaws that discourage users.
When Pokémon GO first launched in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, millions of people downloaded the app, which was likely the reason that I and many players like me experienced server overloads.. According to CNET, a brand of CBS Interactive, Pokémon GO is now available in 132 countries, yet interest in the game in the U.S. is lacking. Google Trends shows that Google searches for the game increased from July 5-11. Since July 11, searches for Pokémon GO have progressively dropped, increasing only on July 16 and 31. Currently, Google Trends shows that as of Oct. 11, Google searches for Pokémon GO are only 4 percent of what they were on the highest search date, which was July 11.
Like many preceding one-month-wonders that hit No. 1 in the app store, such as Flappy Bird and Trivia Crack, Pokémon GO was almost destined to become Pokémon NO. CNBC reported that Pokémon GO became the most popular mobile game ever with 21 million daily users. However, data from Apptopia, a mobile app market intelligence company whose data has been featured in mainstream news agencies such as Forbes and Fortune, shows that Pokémon GO peaked at approximately 43.75 million users. Despite its popularity, Pokémon GO failed. The decline of Pokémon GO is likely due to four main reasons: lack of media coverage, repetitiveness, the requirement of physical activity and under-developed gameplay.
U.S. media giants like CNN, FOX and NBC have mastered the skill of keeping up with the country’s short attention span for news stories. When Pokémon GO was released, popular media outlets reported on the interesting stories surrounding it – such as muggings, traffic accidents and people finding dead bodies – helping the app gain popularity. However, once the Rio Olympics began, Pokémon GO reports took a back seat in media. After the Olympics ended and the U.S. presidential election reached full steam, interest in Pokémon GO evaporated. Since free advertisement for the game dwindled, so did daily users.
Repetition within the game itself pushed users away. For rural and even suburban areas, only four or five Pokémon were common, like Pidgey and Rattata, with the rest only appearing every so often. Rarer Pokémon were almost non-existent. It is understandable for rarer Pokémon to appear less often, but if players wanted to “Catch ‘Em All” as the Pokémon slogan goes, they would have to go a big city for more than the few constantly-recurring Pokémon to appear. After a while, catching the same Pokémon every time becomes boring, as evident by frustrated posts by multiple users on Twitter.
When Pokémon GO came out, it was hailed by the media, such as Business Insider and the Washington Post, as a ground-breaking way to encourage kids to go outside and exercise. The game succeeded for a while, with a study conducted by a Stanford University Ph.D. candidate and two Microsoft researchers finding that American Pokémon GO users walked 1,473 more steps a day than the average person. As promising as it was, the amount of physical activity needed to stay active in the game likely deterred some users from playing the game. Once some players realized they couldn’t play the game from their couch, they probably moved on to another game. Furthermore, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this past July was the hottest on record, which probably further deterred people from wanting to go outside to play the game.
Pokémon GO was not without more than its fair share of speed bumps. The servers would constantly crash within the first few weeks of the release, and they still occasionally do. Many players became discouraged over the fact they couldn’t even play the wildly popular game, and some elected to stop playing altogether. On top of that, even when the servers don’t crash, in-app glitches take away from gameplay. Pokémon randomly disappearing, avatars not registering location and Pokéballs freezing mid-catch are among the annoyances users have reported. Even if the server loads and the app doesn’t glitch, Pokémon GO users deal with multiple game crashes, with the app force-closing at random moments, causing some users to lose Pokémon they were in the middle of catching.
The Pokémon GO app had a lot of potential, and still does. However, it is unlikely the app will see the same user numbers it once did, even if its multiple issues are sorted out. It seems that Pokémon GO is yet another fad that’s “blasting off again.”