Pokemon GO has seen two major spikes in player activity since its release: one of them over the last month, after Niantic released the new Gym and Raid systems. The other was in February of this year, when the Gen 2 Pokemon were added. But both are starting to stagnate again, with SimilarWeb showing a very slight drop in daily users over the last two days: Niantic has once again reached the top of their progression curve.
Not helping is the very lackluster Pokemon GO anniversary event. As practically everyone, including Pokemon GO Hub has noted, the much-anticipated Anniversary Event has turned out to be an utter flop, offering players one Pikachu with a hat and a “discount” box which is debatably more expensive than buying the contents separately (taking into account that Ultra Balls and Max Revives can be easily obtained for free.) The backlash was so bad that The Silph Road, the largest Pokemon GO community on Reddit, had to shut down for an entire evening in order to manage it.
So Niantic is now counting on the big reveal of Pokemon GO Fest in Chicago on July 22 to mollify angry players – and in spite of everybody and their cousin guessing up front that Legendary Pokemon are coming to Pokemon GO, Niantic has remained extremely cagey about what the big day will bring.
It’s certainly possible that they’re just refusing to confirm Legendaries for their own reasons, and Pokemon GO Fest will be another big letdown. But it’s also fueled speculation; namely, that they may be allowing the hype over Legendaries to build in order to camouflage another announcement: that Gen 3 Pokemon will also be entering the game.
If you consider what we know so far, it would make sense. Niantic brought out Gen 2 some seven months after worldwide release, and all of the bugs that came with it. Figure that it took about six months of development work, and we’re at that point again – in fact, Gen 2 came out almost exactly six months prior to Pokemon GO Fest. In addition, Niantic CEO John Hanke has noted that Pokemon GO was so successful, it’s basically funded the company in whatever they want to do for years to come – that surely includes hiring additional development staff. What took them so long to release the new gym system, anyway, which was announced near the beginning of the year?
It just might be that those developers were working on adding Gen 3 to the game.
Gen 3 is admittedly more complicated than Gen 2. It adds another 135 Pokemon to the game, and except for two new babies, none of them are based on Gen 1 Pokemon. It’s a tall order, and rebalancing is going to be rough.
On the other hand, let’s look at the facts. Daily players are up, but many are only playing long enough to use their free raid pass for the day. Most Pokemon GO players are once again bored with the game, having caught and evolved very nearly everything they need to complete their Pokedex, region-locked Pokemon aside. Niantic finally has Pokemon GO back in the public eye, but they need something big to keep the ball rolling; the rate of player loss between release and Gen 2 was, frankly, embarrassing for the company, and really suggests that Pokemon GO was released as an unfinished game in the first place.
Niantic can’t afford another setback like that if they want Pokemon GO to continue as their flagship product. All we have right now is rumor and speculation, but it seems like a Gen 3 release is Niantic’s best chance to capitalize on the game’s anniversary, they’re not telling anybody what they have planned in spite of the community’s confidence that they have it figured out, and if we can spot all of this, so can they.
[Featured Image by Niantic Labs]