Pokemon. The title is synonymous with a worldwide culture of wannabe adventurers and monster tamers. When I say “wannabe,” I don’t mean it in a disparaging way by any means. Hell, I’m one of those wannabes.
The franchise has given a license to dream for millions of kids an adults alike, and it has even brought people together. While Niantic isn’t responsible for the Pokemon phenomenon, they are the champions of Pokemon’s new face: Pokemon Go. You might have heard of it.
The app had more downloads in the first week than any other app in App Store history and has since generated over $600 million in revenue. Sure, the hype has died down considerably, but there are still a steady core of players who are willing to keep playing the game and spending money on in-app purchases. But with unsustainable levels of hype and a product that no longer has the global attention it did over the summer, one has to wonder what’s in store for Niantic and their augmented reality games.
“We want to get people outside, active, having fun with other people, not just behind a screen,” said John Hanke, founder and CEO of Niantic Labs, of the company’s mission.
It’s an admirable mission for sure, but how will they go about doing so?
Well, the fact that they’re now worth around $3.65 billion will certainly help, and the great deal of revenue they’ve accrued will enable Niantic to expand their operations across all verticals. In fact, Hanke says that his next vision for the company is organized events. The first of these occurred from October 26, 2016 through November 1, 2016. For that week, Pokemon Go players earned extra “candies” for walking around and catching certain ghost Pokemon and other spooky pocket monsters. Hanke hopes that more events like this will continue to bring players together and keep the hype alive.
Next comes business partnerships that will turn certain locations into Pokemon Gyms. Back in July, the even company partnered with McDonald’s Japan to turn 3,000 of the nation’s McDonald’s locations into Gyms. We’re likely to see more strategic partnerships like this in the near future, especially since the mobile nature of the game allows for a lot of wiggle room.
“With the smartphone revolution, people are on their phones when they’re out and about at social gatherings,” said David Cole of San Diego-based digital media research firm DFC Intelligence. “So it’s a natural progression to have people still on their phones, but doing something together.”
The tough thing to predict here is customer loyalty. The initial hype is over, so it remains unclear if the game will become more popular when special events are listed or if it’s something seasonal.
“The potential is there for it to have a fairly long life,” says Cole. “I think you’ll see waves, where you have some type of event that gets people back, and you have a smaller core user base the rest of the time. But that’s fairly typical and it’s fine. You don’t expect to see the full user base again.”
While we try to figure out what’s next for Pokemon Go and Niantic, Hanke has his eye on doubling the company’s growth in the next calendar year. Right now Niantic has real estate in San Francisco, Seattle and Tokyo, so Hanke and co. are exploring ways to handle the rapid growth.
“It was one of the most interesting and stressful things I’ve ever done,” Hanke says. “But when it’s all over, it’s incredibly gratifying for all of us to go outside and see people out and about having a good time with the product.”
Niantic are reportedly eyeing up a massive December update for Pokemon Go that will give users the ability to find 100 new Gen 2 Gold/Silver Pokemon in addition to updating the tracking system, trading system and implementing a notification system that will inform players about events like the one mentioned earlier. So it seems that Pokemon is still very much on the minds of those at Niantic, but you can possibly get the inside scoop if you land a job with ’em.
So someone go apply and tell us what’s up!