Lentis/Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is a mobile game developed by Niantic Labs for Android and iPhone. Released on July 6, 2016, it utilizes augmented reality to overlay virtual Pokémon onto a user's physical surroundings. Based on the original Pokémon series developed in 1996, it brings a new element to gaming by making the user physically move around to discover and catch new Pokémon. There are over 100 different Pokémon to catch, with some being rarer and more difficult to discover. The game also models itself based upon the user's geographical location, spawning water Pokémon closer to large bodies of water and desert Pokémon in hot, dry places.

Pokémon Go had great success upon release, but experienced a steady decline after only a few weeks. This casebook chapter describes the initial response to Pokémon Go and analyzes the sociotechnical factors that contributed to the rapid rise and decline of Pokémon Go. This chapter also details the social consequences of Pokémon Go and generalizes many technological trends that Pokémon Go has revealed.

Pokémon Go App.jpg

Initial ResponseEdit

The initial response to the release of Pokémon Go was record breaking. The Android version of the application took only 19 days to reach 50 million downloads, greatly surpassing the second and third fastest applications, which took 77 and 81 days, respectively. The iOS version of the application earned the most downloads ever during a launch week. [1]

Both the daily downloads and daily revenue peaked within three weeks of release. The maximum daily downloads peaked at approximately 27 million and the daily revenue at $16 million. This quick rise gave way to an even faster fall. After being on the market less than a month, Pokémon Go's daily downloads fell to about 4 million and daily revenue to approximately $5 million. Both metrics slowly decreased after that.[2] From July 20, 2016 to August 6, 2016, the application lost approximately 33% of its daily active users, which peaked at 45 million in mid-July. [3]

The Rise of Pokémon GoEdit


The Pokémon franchise was originally released in 1996 as two video games for the Nintendo Gameboy. The original target audience of Pokémon was school-aged boys. During the remainder of the 1990s, the franchise expanded to include a trading card game, an anime television series, and even movies.[4]

Into the 21st century, the key focus of the franchise became the video games. Since 1995, there have been seven generations of the game released for Nintendo devices. Beginning with the 2009 release of the fourth-generation games, a large percentage of the users were high school students and adults aged 19-24. The percentage of users in these demographics only increased with the next three generations of the game.[5] The people in these two age groups are the same people that were Pokémon's original target audience in the mid to late 1990s. Since Pokémon Go is a free-to-download application, many of this demographic jumped at the chance to revive their interest in the series in a more modern way.

Augmented RealityEdit

Pokémon Go is one of the first widely available products on the market that uses augmented reality technology. Augmented reality is a new technology that entails overlaying virtual sounds, video, and/or graphics on a realtime view of the user's physical environment. Experts predict that it will be a $90 billion industry by the early 2020s.[6] Since 2010, several companies, including Google and Microsoft, have publicized their efforts to commercialize augmented reality hardware. Few of these products have actually been released to the public, each costing more than $1000.[7] Playing Pokémon Go gives consumers an augmented reality experience at little to no cost. Google trends shows that google searches for "augmented reality" increased four-fold during July, 2016.[8]

Physical ActivityEdit

Pokémon Go is one of the first widespread games not just to incorporate physical activity, but to revolve around it. Successful players must travel, whether it be by foot, bike, automobile, etc. One of the most convenient ways for players to discover new Pokémon is walking, whether it be around the neighborhood, during a lunch break, or with friends. A study performed by three Microsoft researchers who monitored 32,000 people within a three-month period.[9] Researchers measured physical activity through wearable sensors and tracked Pokémon Go use using search engine queries and mobile activity. Of that 32,000, 25,446 of them issued at least a single search query for Pokémon related terms. There were 1,420 users who were deemed "active" Pokémon Go users due to the frequency and familiarity of their queries of in-game features. This number is 5.6% of the sample, falling very close to the 5.9% national usage statistic. These users were found to increase their average daily activity by 1,473 steps. Additionally, the researchers estimated that Pokémon Go added close to 144 billion steps to the United States' physical activity. Figure 1 in the report displays the steps per day of a single Pokémon Go user tracked by the study. This user's step count increased from an average of 5,000 to almost 15,000 steps per day. While it only displays a single user, the extreme effect of the game on physical lifestyle is clear.

The health benefits of increased daily activity range from reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, improving mental health and mood, to an increased life expectancy.[10] The researchers extrapolated that if each user of Pokémon Go between 15 and 49 years old sustained his or her average increase of 1,000 steps per day, that would translate into 41.4 extra days of life expectancy per person, or 2.825 million years of life expectancy for the entire United States.

Collaboration and CommunityEdit

Pokémon Go was released with minimal instruction, leading users to discover its features together. The discovery of Pokémon locations were shared through word of mouth and social media. Dedicated Twitter accounts such as NYC Pokemon Go Tracker exist to constantly update their followers on the locations and times that different Pokémon are found and caught.[11]

As word spreads, large groups of users will often congregate to catch a specific Pokemon. This YouTube video shows a massive gathering where hundreds of people flocked to Central Park for a Venasaur, a rare Pokemon, disrupting traffic and even running to make sure they did not miss the opportunity.[12]

Pokémon Go was also used in a social setting for users to collaboratively catch Pokemon and socialize. One woman started a small Facebook event with her friends to go on a "Pokemon Go Crawl" through downtown San Francisco.[13]By the end of the week, the event had grown to over 9,000 people marked as attending. Bars and restaurants along the crawl advertised food and drink specials for the large crowd. According to the article, there were even renditions of the Pokémon theme song sung by the crowd.

Large communities of users formed online as well. There are numerous forums throughout the internet dedicated to Pokemon Go, but the two largest are PokemonGoPro[14] and the Pokemon GO subreddit[15] on Reddit. The subreddit alone boasts over 705,000 subscribed players. These websites give users a chance to discuss all things Pokemon Go, whether it be issues with the game, strategies, or new insights. Oftentimes users would even create highly detailed mock ups of in-game features they want implemented.[16]

The Fall of Pokémon GoEdit

Missing FeaturesEdit

Expectations from TrailersEdit

The official Pokémon Go trailer said the game would "allow players to experience catching, trading, and battling Pokémon" on top of showcasing a tracking system and large group events.[17] Only three of these features were available upon release: tracking, catching, and gym battles. Tracking consisted of a Pokemon silhouette with one to three paw prints under it, indicating the distance. Trainers threw virtual pokéballs at Pokemon seen using augmented reality enabled by the phone camera to catch them. Gym battles involved rapidly tapping on a Pokemon with occasional swiping to dodge and long taps to use special moves. All three implemented features paled in comparison to the trailer versions, resulting in a disappointed customer base.

Community SuggestionsEdit

Even before the games launch, numerous requests were posted on community forums. Pokémon Go’s unprecedented popularity only served to increase the number of recommendations. Suggestions ranged from simple wishes to interactive complete UX overhauls to complaints about balance issues. The top post of all time in the largest Pokémon Go community demanded more content in rural areas.[18] None of the ideas saw any response from Niantic, although some were implemented. In a recent patch, players can have a buddy Pokémon walk alongside them, collecting in-game resources, which matches a post made in late July.[19] However, most suggestions have been ignored. Some issues have gotten worse. For example, some trainers misused the report feature to remove Pokéstops, reducing the amount of content. Regardless of Niantic’s reaction, the active community continues to produce a plethora of proposals.

Issues on LaunchEdit

Server DowntimeEdit

Pokémon Go’s growth outpaced the servers allocated to it, making it near impossible to play. Server problems made logging in and saving game progress challenging, resulting in failed community meet ups and frustrated players. Trainers would lose Pokémon, in-game items, and playing opportunities during server outages. During the first month after release, players reported outages for over half the month.[20] Users complained frequently on twitter and other social media. Even the Amazon CTO offered to help alleviate server issues.[21] Others demanded in-game items as compensation for servers ruining their game experience.[22]


The three most notorious bugs on launch were titled the three step bug, Schrödinger's pokeball, and broken gym battle, with each limiting a different core game feature. The three-step bug crippled the tracking system by having all Pokémon appear the same three step distance away. Schrödinger's pokeball stemmed from how the game would freeze, leaving the Pokémon in a state of both caught and not caught until the player restarted the game and verified.[23] During a gym battle, the next Pokémon in the game would occasionally fail to spawn, forcing trainers to restart and losing any progress in the gym. Many players were frustrated by each bug limiting an essential aspect of the Pokémon Go experience.[24]

Niantic ResponseEdit

In response to the plethora of problems facing Pokémon Go, including failing to meet expectations, server crashes, and game-breaking bugs, Niantic released an update on July 20th, 2016 with a single line description, "Minor text fixes." The patch did not address any of the concerns revolving around the game. The decline of monthly active users also started around this time.[25]

Network EffectsEdit

Pokémon Go splits users into three distinct factions: Mystic, Instinct, and Valor. Battling gyms with friends and fellow faction players is key to Pokemon Go. This phenomena where players derive additional value from other players usage is coined network effects.[26] As the number of active trainers decreased, other player's enjoyment of the game dropped due to network effects, causing them to stop playing the game. This negative feedback cycle could also contribute to the fall of Pokémon Go.

Social ConsequencesEdit

Distracted PlayersEdit

Road sign warning drivers not to play Pokémon Go while driving

Pokémon Go fosters distracted users through its promotion of physical activity during gameplay. Since players must constantly look at their phone screen while moving to check for Pokémon, they are often not fully aware of their surroundings. Police have reported that people run across streets without looking for oncoming traffic in a rushed attempt to catch Pokémon and obtain Pokémon Go items. Some players have even gotten hurt while playing.

Drivers also started using Pokémon Go behind the wheel. In one incident, a driver drove into a parked Baltimore police car; soon after, he admitted he was distracted by Pokémon Go.[27] Multiple state transportation departments have warned drivers through social media to stop playing Pokémon Go while driving. Highway signs have also been programmed to display "Don't Pokémon and Drive" and "Pokémon Go is a No-Go When Driving." [28]

Pokémon Go has exacerbated society's phone addiction. Through its demand for constant attention and usage, Pokémon Go allows its players to become absorbed into the game, even when walking and driving.

Luring CrimeEdit

Lure party in London

Some criminals have taken advantage of distracted Pokémon Go players. Players may set a Lure Module at any Pokéstop to increase the frequency of Pokémon sightings nearby. If one player sets the Lure, other players may come to the same location to catch more Pokémon. Three men in Missouri set a trap by placing a lure at a remote Pokéstop and waiting for people to show up. When the Pokémon Go users arrived, they were focused on finding Pokémon, and the criminals robbed the unsuspecting players at gunpoint.[29]

The combination of the augmented reality and the Lure Module was intended to promote a sense of community by bringing players together, both physically and through Pokémon Go. However, people with malicious intent may use the application to fight, rob, or kidnap the distracted players.

Unusual LocationsEdit

Sign banning Pokémon Go at Hsi Lai Temple

Since Pokémon Go maps an augmented reality world on top of the real world, most Pokémon Go locations are paired with landmarks, such as parks, murals, and stores. However, some locations in Pokémon Go are mapped onto memorials, inviting controversy. The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. was made into a Pokéstop, distracting visitors from the memorial displays. The museum consequently issued statements about the inappropriate trivialization of the memorial to both its visitors and Niantic Labs.[30]

Additionally, many players have roamed into unknown locations in search of Pokémon. Police have warned players not to trespass, as some have reported players traveling through private property. A teenager in Wyoming looking for water-type Pokémon made her way underneath a bridge to a nearby river, only to find a dead body in the water. She later claimed that she would not have gone down there if it weren't for Pokémon Go.[31]

Data TheftEdit

Malware versions of Pokémon Go have also been created. Proofpoint researchers discovered an Android version that was infected with DroidJack, a remote access tool (RAT) that attackers use to gain full control over a device.[32] Since Pokémon Go was first only released in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, many people outside of those countries resorted to file repositories for downloads. In order to use these repositories, users must configure their phone settings to allow downloads from third parties, often called "side-loading." If users are not careful, they may grant permissions to a hacker through an infected Pokémon Go application.


Pokémon Go used nostalgia, new augmented reality technology, and the appeal of physical activity to draw a large player base. However, within a month of release, Pokémon Go lost 33% of its daily active users. Many technical shortcomings, including server issues and gameplay bugs, disappointed players, who had high expectations from the Pokémon Go trailer. This trend of over-promising and under-delivering is increasingly commonplace in several technological advancements. Pokémon Go also led to many social consequences that forced society to criticize the application. The rapid rise and decline of Pokémon Go parallels the trends of many other applications in the competitive mobile market.


  1. Pokémon Go passed 100 million installs over the weekend - https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/01/pokemon-go-passed-100-million-installs-over-the-weekend/
  2. Analysis of Pokémon Go: A Success Two Decades in the Making - https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/analysis-pokemon-go/
  3. These Charts Show that Pokémon Go is Already in Decline - https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-22/these-charts-show-that-pokemon-go-is-already-in-decline
  4. History of Pokémon - http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/History_of_Pokémon#Generation_I
  5. Pokémon's Audience is Growing Older - http://www.siliconera.com/2014/12/01/pokemons-audience-growing-older/
  6. Augmented/Virtual reality revenue forecast revised to hit $120 billion by 2020 - http://www.digi-capital.com/news/2016/01/augmentedvirtual-reality-revenue-forecast-revised-to-hit-120-billion-by-2020/#.WE343BT0g7c
  7. 9 Best Augmented Reality Smart Glasses 2016 - http://www.appcessories.co.uk/best-augmented-reality-smart-glasses/
  8. These Charts Show that Pokémon Go is Already in Decline - https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-22/these-charts-show-that-pokemon-go-is-already-in-decline
  9. Influence of Pokémon Go on Physical Activity: Study and Implications - https://arxiv.org/pdf/1610.02085v1.pdf
  10. The Benefits of Physical Activity - https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/
  11. NYC Pokemon Tracker - https://twitter.com/nycpokespawn?lang=en
  12. GO Stampede for Rare Pokemon at Central Park New York - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eloPUvcC6U&feature=youtu.be&t=18
  13. The world's largest Pokémon Go gathering hits the streets of San Francisco - https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/21/pokemon-go-gathering-san-francisco
  14. Pokemon Go Pro - [http://www.pokemongopro.com
  15. Pokemon Go Subreddit</[http://reddit.com/r/pokemongo>
  16. Pokemon Go mockup - https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4w7iv6/i_made_a_mockup_of_pokemon_go_using_hgss_sprites/?st=iwl1mkpe&sh=53397c0e
  17. Discover Pokémon in the Real World with Pokémon GO! - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sj2iQyBTQs
  18. https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4rpqbk/lets_get_niantics_attention_people_we_need_more/
  19. https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4uaidt/suggestion_allow_us_to_walk_with_a_pokemon_and/
  20. http://cmmcd.com/PokemonGo/history.php
  21. Picture of Tweet by Amazon CTO - https://i.redd.it/w28uukblo28x.jpg
  22. Poster asking for compensation for server outages - https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4sdu6b/when_pokemon_go_gets_updated_they_should_give/
  23. Picture of the frozen screen during bug - https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4sdrmh/gettin_real_sick_of_this_bullshit_right_here/
  24. Example post of person frustrated by bugs - https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4tsyls/breaking_loading_bar_now_gets_a_little_further/
  25. Active Users chart - https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-22/these-charts-show-that-pokemon-go-is-already-in-decline
  26. Sundararajan, A (2006). Network Effects. http://oz.stern.nyu.edu/io/network.html
  27. Police Body Cam Catches Distracted 'Pokemon Go' Driver Crashing Into Baltimore Police Car - http://abcnews.go.com/US/police-body-cam-catches-distracted-pokemon-driver-crashes/story?id=40722646
  28. ‘Pokemon Go’ Prompts Numerous Warnings From Law Enforcement Agencies - http://ktla.com/2016/07/11/pokemon-go-prompts-numerous-warning-from-law-enforcement-agencies/
  29. Thieves using Pokémon Go to find players to steal from in Missouri; at least 11 people robbed - http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/thieves-pokemon-find-players-rob-missouri-article-1.2706417
  30. Holocaust Museum to visitors: Please stop catching Pokémon here
  31. Pokemon Go leads teen to dead body
  32. DroidJack Uses Side-Load…It's Super Effective! Backdoored Pokemon GO Android App Found - https://www.proofpoint.com/us/threat-insight/post/droidjack-uses-side-load-backdoored-pokemon-go-android-app