Pokémon Go takes world by storm


Caitlin Ladios, Contributing Writer

The global phenomenon Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality (AR) game developed by Niantic, Inc., a software development company spun out of Google by CEO John Hanke. However, the game, which experienced a massive hype in early July and enjoyed a meteoric rise, is steadily declining according to a report by Bloomberg. Five days after its initial release, it was reported to have 20 million active users daily and peaked two days later with 45 million daily users.  The game lost nearly a quarter of its daily active users, going from 45 million to 30 million less than a month later, however.

Pokémon Go’s popularity is credited to its unique AR experience that immerses users in the world of Pokémon and is reputed to have been the most effective health app released, motivating millions into getting off the couch and walking around. Pokémon Go, in contrast to other games, promotes outdoor activity, physical exercise, and encourages social interaction. Another reason for Pokémon Go’s popularity is also its accessibility; players can download and play the app with ease, and they do not have to pay any price to undergo the full experience.

Junior Amanda Sedlak enjoys playing Pokémon Go and feels that the game was fulfilling.  

“Playing Pokemon Go is rewarding because the process of hunting Pokemon and capturing them feels like a real achievement,” Sedlak said. “ My friends and I once walked for 4 hours looking for Pokemon.”

From a slightly different perspective, Physics teacher Frank Goznikar believes that Pokémon Go has certain academic benefits on students.

“In early grade levels, Pokémon Go gets kids talking about direction from an academic point of view,” Goznikar said. “It gets them communicating, it gets them outside.”

With all these seemingly beneficial components of Pokémon Go, why the downslide in the number of users? The sudden drop in its popularity is widely attributed to the lack of significant updates by Niantic, Inc. The removal of the “nearby” feature, wherein players were given a list of nearby Pokémon and the number of footprints representing its proximity to the player, was met with criticism and dismay from many ardent players.

Freshman Joohee Hong feels that Pokemon Go’s popularity burned out too quickly.

“In the beginning there was a lot of hype around it but then it died down so suddenly, probably because of the time commitment needed to play Pokemon Go,” Hong explains.

Several other glaring problems brought to light by Pokémon Go’s decline is that beyond collecting Pokémon and dueling other players for gym ownership, there is no broader story or plot to the game and the lacking feature of direct player duels is deemed a major missed opportunity. Many users have also quit in frustration due to frequent server crashes and bugs that caused the app to freeze, making it difficult to catch Pokémon.

With Pokémon Go also comes numerous unforeseen inconveniences and risks. The game has been known to attract mass gatherings in neighborhood areas, causing disturbance to homeowners, and some players even trespassed private property just to catch Pokémon. In Utah, Ethan Goodwin, 17, was given a trespassing ticket after he and a few of his companions went hunting for Pokemon early in the morning in an abandoned warehouse.

The decline in enthusiasm could be temporary with Pokémon Go Plus, a $35 add-on, being released on September 16. The Plus connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and allows you to catch Pokémon without taking out your phone. If a Pokémon is nearby, the device will light up. Pressing the button in the middle of the device lets you throw Poké Balls or gather supplies at a PokéStop. This new release, already sold out on pre-orders, just might be the thing that reignites greater interest in the game.