These past few weeks, we’ve had a fleeting, visceral taste of a dystopia ruled by simulacra, blurred reality, and adorable mascot characters. Software development company Niantic captivated hearts worldwide with the release of Pokémon Go: an augmented reality (AR) game that has helped us all relive our childhood fantasies.
Collecting the original Kanto fauna, tackling gyms in pursuit of being the very best — it’s been a journey that even the most detached from the Pokémon craze have had difficulty withdrawing from. It’s sparked a series of unlikely events — players discovering partners’ infidelity, capturing Pidgeys while spouses give birth, stumbling upon corpses — that has raised a veritable uproar online.
Yet the media’s fixation appears to be tapering off, and like most cultural phenomena, Go is diving back into the dark void beyond public scrutiny. As surreal tweets and memes about the game shrink from a waterfall to a trickle, the game appears to have proven itself little more than a one-hit wonder.
But those who declare this gimmick one-hit KO’d are forgetting something important: the fact that it’s dropping out of immediate sight doesn’t preclude it from being an insanely massive success as a game. It’s far from dead; if anything, it’s the biggest cash Miltank in recent memory.
Take a mean look at these numbers. As of July 12, the American player base alone was spending approximately $1.6 million per day on in-app purchases. Niantic’s net worth was roughly $3.65 billion by July 25. That’s not even getting into the billions the company’s going to be raking in with ad revenue.
If, like me, you a) carry an Apple product everywhere, and b) need a tl;dr because flooding numerals irritate you, check the App Store. Go may be seeing a decline in players, but that’s common sense considering its initial, impossible popularity. As I write, it’s in the #1 spot for Top Grossing and #11 for most popular Free apps.
Meanwhile, the nature, age, and sheer size of the Pokémon franchise make for so many possibilities for expanding this game that it will (almost literally) never lack avenues to be reinvented. Just look at the various handheld games for potential mechanics: battling outside gyms, trading with others, raising friendship, Contests, a pseudo-story mode. . . In other words, Niantic can take this game in pretty much any direction it pleases. That flexibility will charm an enormous player base no matter what happens — whether they be loud or quiet about selling their Pokémon friends to Professor Willow for performance-enhancing drugs.
Even now, people of all walks of life find something to enjoy about Pokémon Go; imagine how wide a net it’ll cast months or years from now. It’s decently accessible, and the interface is, if simplistic, bizarrely addicting. Best of all, what better open world could you ask for than the actual open world?
As the first AR smartphone game to attract international attention, this coveted app might really have the potential to lead us into a totally novel age of gaming. Discussion about it might be stalled for now, but it won’t be forgotten.
With the rest of the franchise moving forward, it’s only logical to assume that Pokémon Go will continue to do so as well. Don’t be quick to dismiss it as fading.