Right now Pokemon Go is a massive success. Not only has the iOS and Android game become an overnight cultural phenomenon, but it’s also resulted in publisher Nintendo’s shares skyrocketing, adding over $7 billion to the company’s value since its launch on July 6th. All that, and it hasn’t even received a proper global release yet, with its rollout instead being gradual as Nintendo look to prevent their servers from buckling. But it won’t last.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying my time with Pokemon Go. I think it’s a great little game that is actually having a positive impact on its players, forcing them to venture outside and explore the world around them in order to catch cuddly Pokemon to add to their collection. It’s brightening up the morning commute for many workers, giving them a reason to make the daily trek to their office outside of earning money, and is actually getting people to socialize with strangers who are also playing the game.
However, despite this initial tremendous wave of popularity, Pokemon Go is ultimately doomed to be a flash in the pan success, with there seemingly being no way for developer Niantic to prevent this from happening. Here’s why:
Battery life and cellular data
Here’s the biggie. Pokemon Go currently relies on players having a solid GPS signal and internet connection so that it can locate the player while they’re on their travels. It then needs to run the game (obviously) along with producing the augmented reality mini-games that follow when players locate a Pokemon, which utilizes their smartphone cameras. All of this makes for an app that doesn’t exactly go easy on a phone’s battery life, and while players are currently ignoring this issue in favor of catching Pokemon until their phones can no longer take it, eventually people aren’t going to want to spend the majority of their day without a functioning iPhone because they spent their morning chasing after a Wartortle.
Then there’s the issue of your device’s cellular data, which is constantly being sapped away as a result of playing the game. While it can obviously hook up to a free (and more stable) internet connection via Wi-Fi, considering the whole point of the game is to explore it inevitably requires you to make a lot of use of your available data which, depending upon how much you’re playing the game, could potentially rack up a hefty bill.
There are workarounds that limit these issues, such as downloading an offline map of your surrounding area, but this takes up storage space on your device and isn’t exactly a permanent solution. Considering that the popularity of Pokemon Go hinges upon people continuing to be addicted to it and viewing it as part of their daily routine, this will eventually prove to be a major stumbling block for the game further down the road.
Though the negative impact the game has on players’ battery life and cellular data will, in my humble opinion, eventually lead to its downfall, its inherently simplistic gameplay could eventually serve to prematurely turn people off the game, too. At the time of this writing, Pokemon Go revolves solely upon encountering Pokemon, throwing Pokeballs at them and then capturing them in an uninteresting mini-game. Simplicity is typically viewed as the key to success when it comes to mobile games, but the fact remains that when you aren’t walking around on your morning commute and simultaneously gawping at your smartphone’s screen, there isn’t much of anything to do in Pokemon Go.
In order for Pokemon Go to maintain the relevancy it has more than enjoyed over the past week, it needs to retain its popularity. It will only do this if it continues being a major point of discussion, which will inevitably be hindered by its limited gameplay. Niantic’s next addition to the game will likely be Pokemon trading, allowing players to meet with one another in order to exchange their captured creatures. However, this doesn’t solve the problem of Pokemon Go‘s huge amount of downtime, with it not intended to be played when users are blissfully scrolling through their smartphones at home. Considering that this is typically when most people will play mobile games, this is a major issue and one that will likely prove to be detrimental to Pokemon Go‘s longevity.
Capturing Pokemon, gaining XP and taking control of gyms is definitely addictive, but Pokemon Go drops the ball when it comes to offering an authentic Pokemon experience in the real world. Nintendo has been notably reluctant to allow online social features in their games, and it’s suggestible that the company has prevented Niantic from allowing in-game communication between Pokemon Go players, considering that Niantic’s previous game – the similarly AR-focused Ingress – included such a feature.
Pokemon Go divides players into three separate teams, though aside from the underwhelming gym battles you can take part in its world feels thoroughly empty. You’ll catch Pokemon, you’ll store them in your backpack then, when you encounter a gym belonging to a rival team, you’ll battle an AI representation of the current gym leader’s Pokemon in what is essentially a quick-time event. Trading will eventually become a feature, but there’s no word on whether friend-on-friend fighting will eventually be introduced. This would add a whole new dimension to the game, but as it stands there is a very minimal amount of interaction allowed between players, something which adds to the diminished shelf life of the game.