Why Pokémon Go is a Fad and Will Disappear in 3 Months

There’s no doubt that Pokémon Go is a cultural phenomenon. In less than a week of release, it has secured the top spots of download and grossing charts, spawned countless memes across the internet, and mobilized a population otherwise happy with Netflix.

Yet despite all this initial success, I think Pokémon Go is a fad and will become irrelevant in a few months. Here’s why:

  1. It’s Cool
    Everyone tells me they play Pokémon because it’s cool. They downloaded it because everyone else is playing, and you never want to be the last person at the party. FOMO is great tactic for user acquisition, but it doesn’t do much for user retention; the exodus can happen quickly the second it stops being cool. Yet no one has told me they play because it’s fun, which makes me think the staying power of Pokémon is from the social aspects rather than the game itself. When the social novelty wears off, so will the attention to Pokémons.
  2. It’s Work
    Pokémon Go has defied all logic that people play it despite being a lot of work. Conventional wisdom teaches reducing friction leads to increasing engagement, but Pokémon forces players to walk (or ride) from place to place to catch their Bulbasaurs. This is a double edged sword: while players are more invested into the game, they must also dedicate more time to engage. When the social motivation fades, people will inevitably stop wanting to be Pokémon trainers.
  3. It’s not Done
    My first reaction to the game is that it’s not ready for prime time: missing features, server overloads, and an utter privacy trainwreck. Sure enough, this is the first version of a 5 day old game, but the market doesn’t wait. While most other games can take its time to iterate several versions on the remaining features, the massive adoption of Pokémon Go means most people’s first impressions will be this version. Features like leaderboards, social chats, or daily rewards are basics for retention, but Niantic must now race against the clock to push out the right features before players start churning.

Every person familiar with Growth can tell that retention is much more important than acquisition. Household names like Farmville, Angry Birds, and Flappy Bird reached massive consumer scale in varying magnitudes and periods of relevance before they lost their luster.

This post isn’t meant to dismiss Pokémon Go’s success. They are a remarkable outlier in consumer adoption patterns. I’m a huge fan of Pokémon (I can still name most of the original 151) and wish them continued success, but I suspect most players will get bored in weeks, and the bandwagon will fall apart in months.

In the meantime though, gotta catch ’em all!

Edit: Reflecting on the prediction three months later, it seems the excitement around Go has died down both qualitatively and quantitatively. It was a good run while it lasted!