Pokemon Go is Nintendo’s second foray into mobile gaming after Miitomo and is a massive success, surpassing huge mobile apps like Candy Crush Saga, Snapchat, and Twitter in downloads and daily users.
But, as we look to the future of the game and the Pokemon franchise as a whole, we can see at least one of the major reasons behind Pokemon Go. It’s a marketing plan to get consumers to return to the Pokemon franchise. With the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon over the horizon, Nintendo is using Pokemon Go in hopes to have a high selling release in just a few months.
A Slowly Dying Franchise
Pokemon has been slowly losing players as they’ve released games over the years. The original games for the Gameboy sold 23.6 million copies worldwide and sparked a global phenomenon, a lot of which can still be felt today. In the 90’s, nearly every child was watching the cartoon, trading Pokemon cards, playing the game and wearing the brand. It seemed like the franchise was unstoppable, and for awhile, it was.
Running with this success, Nintendo and Game Freak began pumping out games at a frantic pace, with special editions and follow up successors. The next few games carried on the energy of their players and enjoyed similar sales. But over time, the series has begun to sputter out. The most recent sets of games could only muster half the sales of the original.
This is happening for two reasons. The first being people are getting fatigued with a new Pokemon series coming out every two years with special edition versions and spin offs released in between, resulting in an almost constant stream of games to play.
The other reason is that people have lost brand loyalty to the franchise. This could be because of the above mentioned fatigued, but it could also be because the Pokemon games have done little to evolve as their original fans grew up. From the first generation till now, the game has stayed basically the same except for minor changes in gameplay, creatures, and graphics.
So Nintendo was presented with a dilemma. Continue pumping into the current formula where they lose more players with every addition to the series and try to interest new and young players to replace them, or do something new. To re-establish that brand loyalty, they did something innovative for the company. They created Pokemon Go.
Revitalizing A Disenchanted Audience
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So Nintendo figured they needed to reconnect with their lost players. They tried a simple remaster with Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire in hopes to bring back the original players, but it resulted in comparable sales as the previous installment. Not the boost they were hoping for.
So, they decided to change their tactics and give into the pressure of investors and players to go mobile. Nintendo and Niantic clearly designed the game though to bring back players. The Pokemon in Pokemon Go are all first generation and the starters are the most popular four. Instead of creating new Pokemon or feature the ones in the upcoming Sun and Moon games, they made the conscious choice to highlight the ones from their most popular and iconic series.
Additionally, they changed the gameplay to be more accessible to players of a different skill level and play styles. Nintendo could have commissioned a developer to port Pokemon Red and Blue to mobile, or kept the battle system traditional instead of the swipe and tap method they have now.
But they didn’t. Nintendo and Niantic made a conscious effort to make the game easy to pick up, but still similar enough to Pokemon to bring back players. Nintendo innovated the series, and if we have learned anything in today’s tech world, companies that innovate thrive.
But Pokemon Go isn’t the end plan for Nintendo. It never was. The game in its current design lacks a way to stay sustainable unless there is extreme changes. The game’s purpose is to market the Pokemon franchise, to get back that lost brand loyalty, right in time for Pokemon Sun and Moon.
Pokemon Go Is A Short Term Marketing Strategy
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The game’s purpose is to market the Pokemon franchise, to get back that lost brand loyalty, right in time for Pokemon Sun and Moon. Nintendo’s end goal for Pokemon Go is to sell more of their upcoming titles. They released it now, even though it’s clearly unfinished with missing promised features and filled with bugs, because they wanted to get just the right amount of time for people to play it and then drop it to play Sun and Moon.
Think about it. Pokemon Go requires people to walk around outside. When November comes and the weather turns chilly, people won’t want to brave the cold and catch Pokemon. Sure, some diehards will continue, but most will leave the app unopened until they finally delete it. Additionally, Niantic’s previous app, Ingress, had a similar result, with many players leaving the game after three to four months because the gameplay style just couldn’t keep the interest of players on the long term. Pokemon Go is going to suffer from a similar problem, unless they constantly add new Pokemon and give players incentive to stay.
Around November, people will stop playing the game both from the cold and boredom, but Nintendo has successfully recaptured the attention of the world and made Pokemon fresh again. By that point, Pokemon Go has served it’s purpose.
The new game comes out and people will want to play because they have fun with the mobile app and their brand loyalty has returned. They will want more Pokemon, so they’ll buy the game, along with the hardware to play it. Also, the holiday season is right after the release, so parents of kids who spent all summer catching Pokemon have an ideal gift for them. Sales will increase and will introduce even more players to the traditional games.
The big question though; is it going to work? What do you think? Do you think Pokemon Go is here for the long haul and will continue to top the mobile game industry? How do you think the success of this game will impact Nintendo’s future mobile apps? Let us know in the comments below!