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CheckMag | Please! When will Pokemon Go die?

Pokemon Go seems as popular now as it did when it launched in 2016 (Source: PokemonGoLive)
Pokemon Go seems as popular now as it did when it launched in 2016 (Source: PokemonGoLive)
A franchise whose opening marketing statement was “Gotta Catch Em All”, yet introduces new Pokemon characters every 3 years. How feasible is it to actually collect every single one? A game that spawned zombies on street corners frantically staring and swiping at screens, is Pokemon Go a game, or a ploy to keep people buying “in app purchases” on a never ending quest?
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Classic Pokemon games are some of the most vehemently supported and coveted games on the OG Gameboy and every subsequent Gameboy since. Games where it actually is possible to “catch em all”. But what is Pokemon beyond a franchise aimed at kids to pester their parents into buying more cards, more PokéCoins and more games.

Like Pannini football cards, children in playgrounds the world over trade Pokemon, digital and physical characters to complete the set. But at least a football team has a finite number of players and doesn’t constantly change the goal posts - at least until next year's rosters are revealed.

Launched in 2016, Pokemon Go was actually an idea formed from an April Fools day joke in collaboration with Google called Google Maps: Pokemon Challenge. The game instantly spawned crowds of people standing on street corners searching for PokéStops and Gyms, frantically scanning their smartphones while they try to catch Pokémon. 

There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that Pokemon Go has a positive impact on the community, bringing people together from all walks of life and getting people outside and exercising. Although even the exercise benefits are questionable when nearly 8000 people give 4 star reviews to a Pokemon Go step simulator (Available on Amazon*). There are also numerous reports of trespassing, entering restricted areas and impeding emergency services in a quest to catch digital imaginary creatures.

But let's not forget that ultimately Pokemon Go is a money spinner. A game that can only be won for as long as it takes Niantic to add new characters. Pokemon seems to be a brazen scam to take money from users, and it also happens to be one of the most popular mobile games of all time. Separating people from their hard earned cash and being happy about it because they’ve caught a digital depiction of a creature that took minutes to create and pennies to build into the app...why is Pokemon Go not compared to loot boxes and microtransactions?

Of course the same argument could be made of many mobile apps designed to keep people playing indefinitely. Pay to win, but without the benefit of exercise, these types of games are designed to suck time and money offering little in return, yet are still massively popular.

Pokemon Go remains one of the most popular iterations of this type of game and regularly tops Google search trends. A socially acceptable scam? If society can be judged based on how many hours are ploughed into apps designed to waste time and money, the future doesn’t look bright. Surely we have better things to do.

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David Devey, 2024-01-21 (Update: 2024-01-21)