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Memetic Lifecycles
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jducoeur
Hypothesis: the faster a cultural phenomenon takes off and the bigger it gets, the faster it will peak and then fade into being a niche thing. Fifteen minutes of fame can, sometimes, be fifteen seconds.

I've had this theory in the back of my mind for a long time, but Pokemon Go looks like it'll make a *lovely* data point to examine...
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Paraphrasing:
Typical tech toy, thought Miles. Rare one day, everywhere the next, then not seen again until the antiquarian's convention.

(Jewelry planets, Komarr)

The concept of "flash in the pan" has been around a long time.

That said, PoGo is tapping into a very large and well-established fan base with literally decades of interaction behind it. Those fans have been willing to pile onto most of the offerings in the franchise. Separating that out from the first-mover advantage that PoGo has (and its predecessors, including Ingress) failed to capture would be a neat trick.

Yeah -- the thing here is that Pokemon Go is *way* bigger, and in particular way *older*, than I've seen for traditional Pokemon. Most of the people I see getting into it have no apparent connection to the established Pokemon ecosystem. So the interesting question is, do these folks come and go quickly, or stick around? I'm quite curious...

I've seen a lot of teens around my town doing it in small groups. In public, even!

I bought a Pokemon poster some 17 years ago, so I'm pre-gosh-they-are-cute'd, and I used to watch the TV show. I'm probably an outlier, as any older geek-associated person might be, and as I mostly associate with people close to my age, I have no idea what the actual Pokemon Go demographics are. There must be some kind of analysis out -- or will be soon.

As far as outliers go, ALL of my game design contacts seem to be deep into PoGo :-)

I'm gonna go ahead and disagree with you there. The only reason the original Pokemon missed me is that I skipped a grade in elementary school. Every release has expanded that fanbase by adding a significant age bracket at the bottom and another smaller one at the top.

A good rule of thumb, but subject to at least one major hole. Sometimes, the new thing has (effectively) permanent staying power (albeit usually less than the peak of the initial 'fad' phase). Notable examples in our lifetime include Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. They followed the initial spike and drop-off curve, but never dropped *very* low, and ended up being the foundation of permanent new genres of play. PG has a decent shot at doing so, IMO.

Yep -- we'll see. I assume PG will stick around; the interesting question is what percentage of current users stick with it. I've rarely if ever seen something hit quite this big, quite this fast -- I mean, it's been *days* since it was released and it's already one of the biggest smartphone apps in the world. That's quite remarkable, but I have no idea what percentage of those users will keep playing with it beyond next month...

Markedly fewer of them if they don't fix the server crashes soon.

Ah -- hadn't heard about those, but I'm not surprised. Scaling up a system *that* fast is really, really hard, and I suspect they've been taken by surprise by some of the challenges...

Getting supply to meet demand (while not setting oneself or one's distribution chain up for a big bust) is traditionally one of the big problems in these cases.

People at work are complaining that the most annoying bug is when it crashes right when you make a capture.

I don't know if it counts as more data points, but I had a friend who worked in a record store (what's the current term?) who was scarily good at predicting when movie soundtracks would hit the discount bin. :)

What impresses me most is the 'cottage industries' that are developing around the game. Stores with signs 'Pokemon inside for customers only', mental health therapists are seeing improvements, animal shelters are getting more dog walkers, neighborhood watches have more people on the street, people are losing weight, people are learning metric, odd job folk are now offering Pokemon rides, e.g. "I'll drive, you catch 'em all."

I just got a text from Verizon that I was near my data cap for the month. I figure lots of people are going to more expensive plans now.

Also, I predict a spike in portable battery sales.

Word I've been hearing is that PoGo is actually fairly easy on data consumption, but hellish on batteries

Further investigation shows that something is wrong with my phone, causing some other app to coincidentally eat all my data :-( PoGo does use more data than I normally do, but shouldn't force me to upgrade my plan.

Battery usage is quite heavy, a full phone charge lasts less than 3 hours. Luckily, most days my errands are shorter than that :-)

A lot of what I wanted to say was said by others (mostly Alexx, except that since I was already playing Ingress, I haven't run into data cap or battery issues; I'm already tooled up for this kind of usage; I'm just switching between Ingress and PG now rather than purely playing Ingress when I want to play on the go or farm while I work. I played Pokemon this evening in between performing various tasks in an Ingress op, which had the dual duty of letting me accumulate pokemon rewards in between stops and keeping my scanner quiet (pokemon go does not reveal -nearly- as much information about who you are and what you are doing as Ingress does, plus someone watching for Ingress activity won't -necessarily- look for the little to no activity you give off in Pokemon [if you're just farming, none]).

But the Magic comparison is apt here. Nintendo/Niantic/Google have the bull by the horns here; not just the obvious growing pains (for Magic, not being able to keep product on the shelves; for PoGo, frequent server crashes and a -variety- of hilarious client-side freezes available), but also the inobvious pains that will likely result in the player base shrinking to a tiny fraction of the current one if they don't deal with them; primarily the disastrous upper end of the game, where gyms are simultaneously hard to hold on to, even with top level pokemon, and also ludicriously hard to build big (except, possibly, by having a team of 10 rolling gyms by exploiting what might be an intentional feature). And also, of course, the fact that once you've levelled a lot and collected a bunch of pokemon, there just isn't that much to do; you can fight for gyms and build up your ability to get free game money, but unlike Ingress, where the much simpler mechanics have rich elements of emergent gameplay, resulting in actions that have a highly visible effect on the game but require tems of tens or hundreds of players to perform, Pokemon Go's emergent gameplay seems to mostly consist of people flocking to places where Lures are, or going to Lured areas and getting to socialize with other Pokemon Go players. Additionally, as player level inflates, it will be harder and harder for new players to do much mroe than collect or evolve pokemon; sure, the game is attack-favoring in numerous ways, but that doesn't mean a player with only 500CP pokemon can do much in an area where most gyms have 2000+ CP pokemon, and lots of them.

Obviously, these are soluble problems. Gyms can be solved by giving gyms multiple tiers so that you have something closer to solo Pokemon games where early play involves fighting low level creatures and gyms, and only once you can compete do you have to face much more powerful foes. And there are lots of endgame elements they can add to keep the gameplay rich for both obsessed kids and adults alike. But the execution is key; quite a lot of what they have now is a combination of network effect, a solid property, and a good-enough execution despite the bugs, but if they start leaking players at both ends it will be hard to retain this kind of excitement.

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