The summer of 2016 was the summer of Pokemon Go. No matter where I went in New York City, I couldn’t escape the throngs of trainers, capturing Gyms and catching Pokemon on every street corner. It was a certified phenomenon, but by the end of August, nearly half of the player base had abandoned the game. There simply wasn’t enough to keep them occupied for months on end, so they left.
In February, the game roared back to life as developer Niantic added a whole new Generation to the game, but the revival was short-lived. After all, despite the excitement over nearly 100 new Pokemon, the game hadn’t changed. It was just more of the same, and once again, gamers abandoned Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go seemed like a fad on its last legs. There were still thousands of dedicated trainers who continued to play the game, but any chance it had of becoming a true mobile classic with longevity to rival the likes of Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga has passed. At least, that’s what we thought.
On June 19th, Niantic published a blog post announcing that Raid Battles and new Gym features would soon be arriving in Pokemon Go. An overhaul to the Gym battling system had been rumored for months, but this was the first official confirmation from the developer that it was happening.
On June 22nd, the Gym update began rolling out, completely revamping the way that trainers interact with Gyms. While the battles are mostly unchanged, the user interface has been completely rebuilt, the rules for assigning Pokemon to Gyms have changed dramatically and the system for collecting PokeCoins has been redesigned as well. Some of these changes have been received more positively than others, but they all make Pokemon Go feel more fresh than it has felt since it launched last July.
As substantial as the new Gym features are, the Raid Battles are even more exciting. For the first time, Pokemon Go trainers can team up to take on Boss Pokemon, which they can capture if they manage to beat it. Up to 20 trainers can participate in a Raid Battle, which gives players who have stuck with the game this whole time a reason to rally their friends and get them back into the game.
All of these additions are great, but are they actually making a difference? Let’s check the App Store:
At the time of writing, Pokemon Go has climbed its way back into the sixth spot of the top grossing iOS apps in the US. On June 1st, Pokemon Go in 22nd place. The game is also back in the top 100 free apps on the App Store, clocking in at number 76 after having been at 130 just two weeks ago.
Following months of decline, Pokemon Go is once again on the rise. But it could stall out at any time.
If Niantic wants to keep up the momentum, it needs to have a slew of major additions ready for the near future. We can’t wait another six months for Legendary Pokemon — they need to be in the game before the end of next month. We can’t wait until next summer for Generation III Pokemon — they need to be introduced before the end of the year. Now that the game is stable, we need content.
That said, the one-year anniversary celebration is off to a soaring start. A consistent stream of updates on the same scale as the Gym update could turn Pokemon Go into the biggest mobile game of 2017.