Pokemon Go will it last? Will it be a fad and fade away? Pokemon Go is truly taking off, and in almost every news show, and social setting we are hearing more and more about this tremendous action filled activity. As we often see in social media, apps, and games we can see very rapid growth in very short time periods, and then a wicked death as the novelty and interest drops off, again, very quickly. Will that happen with Pokemon Go? We will see, but right now it is on a major roll, and we are now seeing small business try to connect through the game with new consumers, and participate in hosting hot spots near or in their stores. Dan Porter over at IMG has some insights he is sharing with us, and we will soon see how long this fad lasts…can the creators keep new content and new storylines going to keep it an active application for years, or will it quickly fade away as so many have in the past.
But then there is that always troubling marketing question. How can I invest in this success. Don’t chase fads just because they become hot spots in social media. First identify if your consumer is part of that audience. If not do get involved. If they are make sure you understand how you are going to use this to activate some form of action that will benefit your brand, sell products or connect with the consumer. Lastly, make sure the investment reflects the above, and gives you a return both in activations of some kind as well as a return on the investment required. Not all of these fads have low cost entry points, and you could get burnt quickly if the numbers don’t make sense.
A few days ago the texts and tweets started rolling in. Is Pokemon Go the next Draw Something or the next Candy Crush folks like @RichBTIG asked me. Four years ago Draw Something, a game made by myself and the team at OMGPOP, burst out of the gate with 50 million downloads in 50 days. Pokemon Go has already seen 7.5 million downloads and with the press and social media exposure it will surely continue its explosive run. Despite privacy concerns the game has terrific game design which has been well documented by others.
My task is to answer the question, if Pokemon goes up must it and will it come down. Is Pokemon Go just another fad, or is this a genre changing game that’s here to stay. In its favor are the following attributes
-It’s a game built on 20 years of legacy with deep cultural resonance among millions of players. The game barely even has a tutorial because who doesn’t know how to catch Pokemon? To build a brand like a Candy Crush or a Clash of Clans from scratch is extremely hard. So in it’s favor is that a 28 year old playing Pokemon Go on his $500 iPhone gets to feel like a kid again. Few other games can do that.
-It’s uniquely social. Friends tell each other that their office is a great place to catch Pokemon and my son and I met folks hiking in the Catskills who were also catching Pokemon. It’s cool to be playing Pokemon Go right now, and sharing Snapchat stories about others who are as well.
-It has leveled game play which can keep players engaged in short term goals and achievements.
Pokemon Go also has the attributes to support a big bang and then a slow fizzle.
-The game is IRL social but that’s not sustainable like true social. In a Draw Something or Words With Friends, the other player provides the content. It’s an endless stream of content that takes the pressure off the game developer and enhances already existing social connections, mostly in private. That’s what a good messaging app does and what Pokemon Go does not do.
-Games dynamics like Match-3 (Candy Crush and Bejeweled) and Tetris tend to work on our brains in a different way. Anyone who has every dreamed about matching falling blocks can understand that matching and tidying up are psychological twists that cause both pleasure and repeated game play. Pokemon Go is exhilarating but lacks this human compulsion (although it does have collecting, another core compulsion).
-I believe that while there are many people able to create a game, there are very few who are excellent at leveling in games, at creating that moment that right before you say you will never play again, the game understands, and then you advance. For the casual Pokemon Go player, the joy of early play I believe will eventually be replaced by gyms that are too competitive and Pokemon that are too hard to find. At the moment you want to quit, you probably will, because the game will become too difficult and the purview of the truly dedicated.
So while I believe that Pokemon Go will have a great run, and will most certainly be the game of the summer, I do believe that its numbers will fall back to earth as it lacks certain attributes that will retain millions of players a year from now. That being said, I do believe that its run will be longer than expected and most of all, that its eventual leveling and dip are not a cause for concern.
At its height, Draw Something had 24 million daily active players. While the numbers decreased from that height, the remaining number of players was still so astronomical that it created a great deal of value. My rough and conservative estimate is that Pokemon Go is generating around $.20 per DAU. So yes, we are all jumping on that Pokemon Go bandwagon now. And many of us will fall off. Yet while the press narrative will document the casual players who fall off, and there will be millions, with a base of hardcore nostalgia oriented players remaining, the game will be just fine. Fine to the tune of around $75 million in annual revenue for every one million players in the game. And if they can maintain around 7mm DAU, from what will surely be a much larger short term number, they can come closet to doubling their revenues. You don’t always have to catch them all.