Although it was only back in 2016, the Pokémon GO peak of popularity feels like a distant memory to many gamers. For a couple of months in the summer of that year, the augmented reality game that brought characters from the first generation of the Nintendo Pokémon franchise into the real world was making big headlines, and almost everyone seemed to be playing it. While the game still exists and does have some passionate remaining fans, none of the updates that have been added, including special events, improved gym combat and new Pokémon generations, have managed to reignite the worldwide interest the game had at launch.
Where is the Next AR Sensation?
Of course, this happens. Some things do turn out to simply be fads and don’t keep up their initial success and fan goodwill for long. However, what is more surprising to some is that in the wake of the Pokémon GO hype, there hasn’t been another augmented reality phenomenon since.
Was AR Gaming a Flash in the Pan?
Augmented reality gaming did seem like the darling of video game innovation when Pokémon GO was riding high, a way that people could use their devices to make the world around them into part of a game, something interesting and more fantastical than the mundane reality. We know people love experiences that make them feel like they are living a game, which is part of the popularity of things like escape the room style experiences, such as the ones at the Atlanta escape room center. So surely, things that turn real life into a game all the time would be welcome? Well, perhaps yes, but Pokémon GO revealed a lot of problems with AR gaming on a global scale, which any new game would need to address.
The Issues With Pokémon GO
Firstly, once the novelty had worn off, the gameplay on launch simply wasn’t much fun. The combat system was basically just stabbing at the screen of your phone and catching Pokémon was a frustrating game of Paper Toss. However, the appeal of finding characters from such a beloved franchise while hanging out outside was enough to make pretty boring gameplay slide – that was always something that could be improved in patches. What was more telling was how the Pokémon GO game’s global data made the game extremely unfair, based on where the player lived. People outside of major cities were left disappointed as their online friends caught all the interesting creatures, and hardly anything spawned for them. Balancing a game based on real geographic data so that players in certain locations don’t have an unfair advantage was a technical challenge and one which Pokémon GO couldn’t meet.
A new AR game looking to bring together people and drive them outside to explore their environment through a new lens is a massive undertaking, and without the obvious appeal of a brand like Pokémon it could also be a big gamble. Yet, with the problems GO had, and still has, which made the challenge of developing a good global AR infrastructure even bigger, it is perhaps no surprise that it is not something that has been attempted by any major players in the last couple of years.