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The Rise and Fall of Pokémon GO

Updated: Mar 29, 2018

Image from GAMERANT

In 2016, the Pokémon GO phenomenon swept through the world. At its peak, there were almost 45 million users world wide and the game generated a staggering $950 million in 2016 (from apptopia).

Since then, the hype has passed and popularity for the game has faded. But, there are still many lessons to be learnt from the Pokémon GO phenomenon.

Why Did Pokémon GO Succeed?

1. Nostalgia. Pokémon GO capitalized on the original franchise that was launched in Japan in 1996 and went international in 1998. Consumers who were kids or teenagers in the 1990s grew up with Pokémon. The creators of Pokémon GO knew their target market and actively marketed the game to millennials.

2. Social Media. The rise of Pokémon GO is a classic social media marketing case study. In a matter of hours, Pokémon GO became the top topic of conversations on virtually every social media platform. There were more than 900,000 social media posts just two days after the launch (from crimsonhexagon). Social media played a pivotal role in helping the game go viral.

3. It’s Simple and Free! Sometimes, as marketers, we tend to over-complicate our products and marketing messages. Keep marketing messages, pricing, promotions clear and simple to understand. If you are targeting a new market, offer something free for customers to try out.

4. Build A Community. With three teams (Instinct, Valor & Mystic), players can join communities and it fosters friendly competition among players. Competition also helps fuel interest and motivates players to catch them all, or collect the full set of Pokémon.

5. Augmented reality has been around for a while, but Pokémon GO was the first successful use of the technology for marketing. But not every marketer can leverage on a cultural phenomenon to develop a game. There have been other marketing use cases where retailers have used AR technology for virtual fitting rooms.

6. Partnerships. In the Pokémon GO ecosystem, there are three major stakeholders; players, businesses and Nintendo / Niantic. Businesses sponsored PokéStops and gyms gave players in-game items and rare Pokémon. While Nintendo / Niantic received up to $0.50 per visitor from businesses when the game increased customer traffic to their stores. Pokémon GO partnered with companies such as McDonald’s, Sprint, Starbucks and generated more than $250 million in revenues (from techcrunch).

Since its initial launch in 2016, the number of active users have declined from 28.5 million to less than 5 million per day. What happened? Was it just a passing fad? Or could the decline have been avoided?

Why Did Pokémon GO Fail?

Image from BlazeMeter.

1. Limited Content. Pokémon GO did not introduce new elements to the game quick enough to keep players engaged. Just less than a month after the launch, a player caught them all. Although developers added the "buddy" feature which allows players to choose a Pokémon to accompany their avatar, it was a relatively minor enhancement.

2. Community. The game did not allow interactions between players. Players could not communicate with other users in the game or battle each other's Pokémon. Developing a community will allow you to engage with your customers and nurture brand evangelists who will help you spread the word.

3. Lack of Engagement. Pokémon GO did not listen to the wants of their customers. For example, when the Pokémon tracking feature was disabled, there was an uproar on social media. And the company did not manage and communicate the changes to their players. In addition, Niantics / Nintendo did not create a social media presence to interact and get feedback from their players. Imagine the wealth of information they could have obtained from social media.

4. Lack of Partnerships. Although Pokémon GO partnered with McDonald's Japan during the launch, it took Niantics months to sign sponsorships with other major retailers (i.e. Sprint and Starbucks. It did not full capitalize on its initial popularity. Perhaps the company wasn't expecting the game to be that successful.

The Conclusion

Will Pokémon GO change its marketing strategy? Will they add new releases to keep players engaged? Will social media be a part of their new marketing strategy? One thing is for sure, Pokémon GO will become a marketing case study for years to come.

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