If we look at these numbers, we can see a very clear trend. After 2017, Pokemon Go saw annual growth until then exploded in 2020 due to global covid-19 pandemic, where it became one of the primary entertainment venues for many individuals in varying degrees of lockdown. This continued largely into 2021, but dropped to pre-2020 levels in 2022 as the world began to return to normal.
On the surface this may seem like nothing more than order being restored and the status quo returning to the game, but look a little deeper. Not only did Pokémon Go lose over a quarter of the revenue it had in the previous year in 2022, it also saw a 4 years low, declined in every year to date since 2018. For a company, this is a alarming revenue decline, whether stemming from a global driver or not. Using this as a basis and ignoring the fact that we only buy digital currency and give Niantic an extra fortune in data just by having Pokemon Go installed on our phones, it makes perfect sense from one business point of view that they would want to raise the price of what I would bet to be one of their most profitable products… right?
Well, I would honestly argue that this line of thinking, while reasonable for anyone to consider and a clear advantage for Niantic, is not their main reason for this price increase. Part of the reason I say this is that they also adopted a cap on the number of remote attacks per day, which is likely to have worsened one huge Quantity “whales” who simply want to enjoy the game from the comfort of their home or office. Not to mention the fact that this would certainly lead to a lot of bad press, as it has, and costs more sales that way. Looking at the balance sheet alone, I would estimate that this move is actually coming cost Niantic money to implement. For these reasons I have genuinely don’t think monetary gains aren’t the main motivating factor in this move…. at least not in the obvious way!
Niantic wants to return to Glory Days
So what exactly make Does Niantic want to get out of this? To understand it a little better, let’s think back to the point where sales were at the lower end of the spectrum in the chart above: the 2016-2017 era. When the game launched it was an absolute phenomenon which took the whole world by storm, and already in 2017 the storm picked up again with the launch of the Raid system. Then that was it nothing seeing a group of randomly assembled people stand in front of notable areas in their cities or towns and tap their phone screens in near unison as they challenge the latest raid bosses. Back in the day, Pokemon Go was one social phenomenon, and we had one very, very strong community that surpassed the internet.
But back around 2018, the boil in society began to simmer. Many players stopped following the game as closely, and we slowly saw these groups of players less often. The old “Raid Trains” were getting shorter and soon they had become smaller communities and more friend groups that are harder to actually break into. Pokemon Go’s glory days were fading, and it was solidifying into what it would be for the foreseeable future. That is, until Covid hit. As the virus began to spread, Pokemon Go saw an increase in player activity due to the aforementioned issues, but we also saw also fewer groups form for raids. This was because of Covid keeping us apart, but also because of the crux of the whole controversy that is in the spotlight today: Remote Raid Pass.
This little object changed the game, both literally and figuratively. It opened up what would be their most profitable era ever. Suddenly raids were open Worldwide for players, and various apps and sites had ways to match players regardless of their friend list. For the first time, Pokemon Go real offered the freedom it had long lacked, despite being a game that touts freedom as one of its main selling points.
Ah, but this move also came with their backs:
- Players were less likely to group together publicly, giving Niantic less free advertising
- Players were less connected, instead relying more on existing friend groups or matchmaking services to enter raids with minimal outside contact
- Players weren’t out and about, meaning data from players with Pokemon Go installed became less valuable
And here is the source of our current question really starts. The Covid problem created a bubble and Niantic gave us tools to inflate the bubble even more. And now that the bubble is finally pops, Niantic sees the Remote Raid Pass as a way for players to bypass the need to give free publicity to Pokemon Go and a way to collect their data, which I would personally imagine is where they likely get the majority of their game-based value, significantly less valuable. They can’t exactly do that remove remote cards now, because that would cause a community that already exists very fugitive from years of playing a game run by a company that many considers it cold and callous to his players to move. So instead they’ve pulled this move on us as a “compromise” that lets both sides get what they want…right?
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