One question I tend to ask about any game that achieves rapid success is, “what makes this thing so good?” I mean, I’m a game designer and I’m always looking to see what people like in games, what people hate in games, things that could be improved, and all that jazz. With Pokemon Go, I think the biggest contributor to its success has to do with the giant Pokemon brand that has been created for years and years now. It’s a series that people know, love, and embrace every chance they get.
I grew up when Pokemon was first launched. I vividly remember playing Pokemon Yellow when I was barely old enough to hold my clunky GameBoy and I was all about it. I had Pokemon Coliseum on my Nintendo 64, as well as Hey You, Pikachu. I was a fanboy from the start because it was just such a simple game that really taps into people’s reward systems.
As a society, we love achieving goals. We like small, attainable goals that feel like huge accomplishments, and that’s exactly what you get while you catch new Pokemon, beat gyms, level up, and fill your Pokedex. This idea is simple and people have been exploiting this human desire for years now, but again I ask, why Pokemon Go?
The answer is actually quite simple. There is absolutely no competition for this game. When you think of games that people “gotta have”, I think of Flappy Bird. It was a game that came out a few years ago on mobile devices that was so insanely simple, but it sparked a huge reaction. People absolutely loved it. The only problem was its simplicity. Its incredibly simple design led to the creation of hundreds, if not thousands, of clone applications exactly like it and eventually people got sick of the concept.
When it comes to Pokemon Go, the incredible amount of time and expertise it takes to create a game of that size is nearly impossible to clone. I mean the team behind the game involves people who used to work on Google Maps in order to pinpoint locations, find hot spots, and coordinate the nest migrations. It’s a very large-scale application that takes more than a few lines of code.
Can people make their own games based around this idea? Absolutely. Can they make it in three or four day? Not a chance in the world. A game of this scale could take years for a small developer to make, and if a large company tried to do it then they would use up a lot of time, money, and quality assets in the process.
Summer is coming very quickly, so if another game is going to launch this would be the perfect time. I just honestly don’t see anybody putting in the massive amounts of effort it would take, and because of that Pokemon Go will be the king forever. Unless somebody decides to step up right now, this will be a game that may never be matched again on mobile devices.