Pokemon Go was released in July 2016 and very quickly became the biggest trend in its’ launch countries. The “augmented reality” mobile app was downloaded over 100 million times in less than one month.
The downloads just kept coming as it extended into other countries and regions. Coffee shops and other businesses advertised themselves as “PokesStops” to attract customers.
Public spaces became inundated with players searching for their favorite characters. Then came the stories of criminals using the app to lure victims.The march of the game seemed unstoppable. Then it stopped. By late September 2016 it had lost almost 80% of its players. Those who hated the game, and there were many that did, explained it was because it was a fundamentally poor experience the further in to it you got.
Yet despite it dropping out of the the media spotlight and losing most of its players, it is still used by millions. It is still by any objective measure a successful game.
Pokemon Go benefitted and suffered from being a craze. Sudden dramatic uptake and interest in a product or activity that then recedes almost as quickly. There is usually at least one popular culture craze per year but typically much more than that.
The Macarena and Gangnam Style were both songs with associated dances that became massive trends. The end of both trends were closely aligned with politicians joining in. This isn’t just because politicians are unpopular. It is because crazes are like waves that peak and then have nowhere to go.
They are the cultural equivalent the water cooler conversation at work. You can only discuss the same thing so many times and the conversation is then played out. It’s time to move on to the next topic.
True crazes become crazes as shared conversations. You may love or hate the craze but you can still join in the conversation. That’s the real point of them. Once the craze passes, some will continue using the toy or playing the game or dancing the dance but everyone else is just waiting for the next object of shared conversation to emerge. After all, talking about strange non threatening topics does allow us to connect and make us feel quite hygge.