The days of people risking life and limb to capture Pokémon might be gone. For many, the summer was spent trapped in abandoned mines and tumbling off cliffs – all for the bragging rights of having a Goldeen or Dragonite in your Pokédex. But is Niantic’s augmented reality title, Pokémon Go, really dead or just stuck in limbo?
Whether the action takes place inside or outside, gamers aren’t exactly starved for entertainment in 2016. There are hundreds of thousands of titles on the App Store and Play Store, ranging from grim adventures like Limbo and the Room-series of puzzles to Bitcoin slots and similar iGaming endeavours. The trick is standing out in a saturated market.
There is little doubt that Pokémon Go remains insanely popular. The game still holds the attention of 10% of Americans and 20% of Japanese players five months after its launch, in a world where most apps lose three quarters of their users after 24 hours. What’s even more incredible is that an August exodus of 15-20m players had almost zero impact on revenues.
Pokémon Go is the most successful app ever. Time spent in the game by users amounted to 45% of all Android game time in the third quarter of 2016. It’s not going anywhere. The big question now is: What is Niantic going to do next with Game Freak’s beloved franchise?
Niantic’s recent Halloween event increased the spawn rate of ghost-type Pokémon like Gengar and Gastly and made it easier to collect candies. It also earned the company $200m (£158m). The event wasn’t anything revolutionary but, up until that point, Niantic’s tinkering with the app amounted to bug fixes and minor amendments like the buddy system.
Mike Quigley, Niantic’s CEO, intimated recently that events would become a larger part of Pokémon Go in the future. He also hinted that while the original Pokémon Tracker – a feature that was removed sparking much outrage – could make a return in the coming months.
Data mining of the game’s code earlier this month revealed models for Generation II Pokémon and it’s looking like it’s going to be an interesting sequel. A set of one hundred new critters that first made their appearance in Game Boy titles, Pokémon Gold/Silver were found. Turns out that Gen II includes three new starters, Chikorita (grass), Cyndaquil (fire), and Totodile (water), as well as new evolutions for some Gen I Pokémon, such as Crobat, Igglybuff, and Steelix.
Whether a new set of region-locked Pokémon will be rolled out too (replacing the existing ones of Moltres, Zapdos, Ditto, Articuno, Mewtwo ,and Mew) is unknown at this stage.
Despite the excitement the data mine created, it’s still hard to see Niantic releasing the Gen II update this side of 2017. While it might renew popularity in Pokémon Go, the seasonal weather isn’t exactly conducive to monster hunting.