July 6th marks one year since the initial release of Pokemon GO in the US.
Because of the huge demand, Ireland didn't (officially) receive Pokemon GO until ten days later. It really is breathtaking just how popular Pokemon GO became in just a short space of time - and how it almost disappeared from the popular consciousness as well. Very few games nowadays have longevity, and mobile gaming is a tough market to break into. Buoyed by the initial success of Pokemon GO, Nintendo pushed forward with Super Mario Run - only for the game to fail to meet its expected sales figures. While Pokemon GO might be viewed as a fad by most, it's become an obsession for others.
Leaving aside the Anniversary Event currently running on the game, Pokemon GO has gone through a series of major facelifts and updates. So much so, in fact, that the game you played on launch looks radically different to the one that's on the App Store / Play Store now. For example, the PokeGyms have been completely revamped from their original features, more than 80 new Pokemon have been added to the game and tons of bugs and glitches have been ironed out of the game. Not only that, Niantic Labs have finally cracked down against cheating and GPS spoofing. The most recent feature introduced in the game is Raids - which sees players teaming up to take on overpowered Pokemon for unique bonuses and prizes.
Yet, in spite of all these features, Pokemon GO's fortunes have waned considerably and there's no denying that the game's community has shrunk to a devoted few. A survey carried out by comScore in April of this year found that the game's daily visitors in the US shrank from a all-time high of 28.5 million in July of last year, to just 5 million in April of this year. Although no data is available for the UK and Ireland, it's assumed that the trend is largely the same everywhere. This, in turn, has led to a viciously sharp learning curve with the game and preventing casual players from making any kind of headway in the game. Not only that, breeding still hasn't been added to the game. Player battles still haven't arrived on the game yet, something that was initially teased during the first release of the game. Trading, which was something that was tested in beta, still hasn't been introduced yet.
Anyone's who played Pokemon GO will tell you that it's really about grinding and there's no real skill or strategy involved to it. Once you've worked out the best counters to different Pokemon - all of which are available online in messageboards and the like - the game just becomes a repetitive motion. For whatever reason, Niantic Labs painted over the cracks with facelifts and superficial updates and failed to capitalise on what made Pokemon GO so interesting in the first place - the social aspect of the gaming. Trading could have been easily introduced in some of the early updates in the game and probably could have gone a long way to preventing the decline in players. Niantic opted to keep it off and, a year later, players are still clamouring for it. If it were introduced now, would anyone outside of those who are still fervently playing actually care? It's doubtful at best.
It could well be that Niantic Labs are gearing up for Pokemon GO 2 and that trading, player tournaments and battles, and everything that should have been launched with the game or perfected will make it in. It's possible, but the fact is is that Pokemon GO was, and still is, a missed opportunity.