原作者：Brian Barrett 译者：Vivian Xue
从各项重要数据来看，《精灵宝可梦Go》是十足的赢家。App Annie的数据显示，自发行以来，《精灵宝可梦Go》一直位于App Store和Google Play Store日下载榜前一百。它是Play Store本周收入冠军。据应用数据分析公司Apptopia估算，《精灵宝可梦Go》这两年内的收入高达18亿美金。
“在游戏中，花大钱的往往是小部分用户。这一点适用于大多数优质游戏。”App Annie的分析师Lexi Sydow说，“我想《精灵宝可梦Go》将保持这一趋势。”
事实上只有少数几个游戏，譬如《星球大战》和《糖果苏打传奇》，拥有《精灵宝可梦Go》这样持久的魅力。特别是如果你已经忘记了这个游戏的存在，你会吃惊地发现它依然拥有许多玩家。但这种持久性还具有启发意义，尤其在应用程序经济完全接纳了Niantic倡导的AR技术的背景下。（app economy, 应用程序经济，指围绕移动应用的经济活动，包括应用程序的销售、广告收入、免费应用程序衍生的公共关系，以及用于运行应用程序的硬件设备等，游戏邦注。）
Niantic自然会发扬这种优势。2017年6月，他们引入了一个叫Raid Battles的团战模式，让玩家组队攻打强大的怪兽。今年1月，他们开始在全球范围内组织每月活动Community Day，利用特殊奖励吸引各大城市的游戏爱好者到外面捕捉精灵。就在上个月，他们开始推出好友功能，让人们互相赠送礼物和交换精灵。
《精灵宝可梦Go》衍生自Ingress，一款Niantic在2012年发行的模式类似的游戏——只不过里面没有皮卡丘。Ingress有自己的玩家，但若不是宝可梦玩家挖掘了这个游戏，它根本毫无影响力。Niantic即将到来的新作《哈利波特：巫师联合》（Harry Potter: Wizards Unite）将会是一款魔法元素的AR游戏。如今AR已经不再是什么新奇的事物了，拥有粉丝基础的大IP 成了制胜法宝。
Two years ago today, a studio called Niantic released a game with a novel proposition: Go outside. Point your smartphone at the real world. Catch some monsters. Within a day, Pokémon Go was at the top of every app store chart. Within 200 days, players had spent a billion dollars on in-game upgrades—the shortest time to reach that milestone by a wide margin. In the summer of 2016, you couldn’t walk two blocks without running into, sometimes literally, a person in hot Pidgey pursuit. And then it stopped. Or so it seemed.
The news reports faded. Shops that had seen a sharp spike in sales thanks to Pokémon hot spots settled back into their normal routines. In just four weeks, between that August and September 2016, Pokémon Go shed nearly 20 million players, as enthusiasts headed back to school, or lost themselves in various other viral pursuits.
But the game’s long retreat from that initial burst belies its continued, unprecedented success. And in the gap between what you might think happened to Pokémon Go and the game’s current-day dominance lies an important lesson about the future of apps.
It’s true that far fewer people play Pokémon Go today than did two years ago. In July 2016, the crush of players boosted attendance at Pokémon-heavy Crystal Bridges Museum in Fayetteville, Arkansas by 50 percent year over year. By that August, the tide was already ebbing. “It seems like the hype died down in the span of a month,” says Crystal Bridges public relations director Beth Bobbitt. (She adds, “We still have a lot of ‘pokestops’ and ‘gyms’ all around the museum campus so I think we’re still a great location to play the game, for those who still are.”)
You’ve seen this yourself, anecdotally. There are no viral videos of Pokécrowds gone amuck anymore. No one makes Weedle jokes at the water cooler. The natural conclusion: Pokémon Go is just another fad that disappeared in a blink, a fameball of Pog proportions. But writing off Pokémon Go after the initial frenzy is like assuming PyeongChang no longer exists post-Olympics. What matters isn’t how Pokémon Go looked at its zenith, but how it held on from there.
“It was completely uncharted territory. The initial fervor, that global excitement around the game and the way it spread virally, globally, in such a short period of time. It was a new experience for all of us,” says Niantic CEO John Hanke. “But looking at it in retrospect, it looks very similar to all games. There’s an attrition curve that’s reasonably consistent across games. Some games are better at that attrition curve than others. That kind of separates the winners from the losers.”
By every measure that matters, Pokémon Go has been a winner. Since its launch, it has almost never dropped out of the daily top 100 downloaded apps in both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store, according to app analytics company App Annie. It has been the top-grossing app in the Play Store this entire week. In two years, according to an estimate by app analytics firm Apptopia, it has taken in $1.8 billion in revenue.
“Even though the mega spending at the beginning has died off, the rate of revenue is still highly impressive,” says Apptopia communications lead Adam Blacker. “Where the money comes from is actually pretty evenly split between iOS and Android, which is unusual”
It also helps that mobile games don’t necessarily require lots of players to be successful. Revenue generally comes from power users, the whales that invest in PokéCoins—or whatever their poison—the way others might their 401k.
“Generally speaking within games, a smaller portion of your users are spending a lot of money. That’s true of most premium games,” says App Annie analyst Lexi Sydow. “I would imagine that trend would hold for this game.”
But the most impressive indicator of Pokémon Go’s sustained success is how much of their lives people devote to it. To this day, more cumulative time is spent playing Pokémon Go than any other game. It’s not even close: One in five minutes spent on the top 20 games on Android in May was devoted to chucking virtual Pokéballs.
“The game has been remarkably consistent and stable in terms of its performance post that bubble era, if you want to think of it that way, when we first launched,” Hanke says.
In fact, only a handful of apps—hello there, Candy Crush Saga—have had anything close to Pokémon Go’s staying power. The durability is surprising, especially if you’d forgotten Pokémon Go even existed. But it’s also instructive, especially as the app economy fully embraces the augmented reality experiences Niantic pioneered.
Niantic doesn’t offer much in the way of demographic specifics on its players, but suffice to say they don’t much resemble the Fortnite crowd. The game attracts proportionally more older people and more women than its peers—and in fact can credit much of its initial success to enthusiasts who otherwise wouldn’t be playing anything at all.
“Pokémon Go was not displacing other games. It wasn’t taking time away,” Sydow says. “We saw that it was actually additive time. People were taking more of their day playing Pokémon Go but also doing what they would originally.”
Pulling from a broader pool has helped keep Pokémon Go going. While it experiences steady attrition like any other game, it has a higher ceiling on potential new players to attract. And because it’s a game that takes place in the real world, it has more ways of making sure those players stick around.
“I think the design of the game in terms of it being an MMO should not be overlooked,” says Hanke, referring to the massively multiplayer online game genre of which Pokémon Go is a prime example. World of Warcraft would be another, a comparison that Hanke invites. Just as a WoW guild encourages regular, cooperative play, exploring the world through a Pokémon Go lens with friends can be mutually reinforcing.
“I think in Pokémon Go, because it’s a real-world game, it’s even more sticky than with League of Legends or something, where you’ve got a team but never see them face to face,” Hanke says. “With Pokémon Go, you are meeting those people face to face. You’re forming real friendships with them. Friendships are sticky. That’s probably the secret sauce of the game, right there.”
Niantic has, naturally, leaned into this advantage. In June 2017 it introduced so-called Raid Battles, a cooperative mode where groups of players team up to take down especially powerful bosses. This past January, it began organizing a monthly worldwide Community Day, using special Poké-bonuses to lure enthusiasts out into the open in major cities. And just last month, it started rolling out a Friends feature, which enables sending of gifts and trading of Pokémon among people you know in real life.
The roadmap from here follows that same course, buttressing the gaming appeal of Pokémon Go with hints of a social network. “I think there’s a ton more we can do there to basically enrich the game when you’re playing it together with people that you know,” Hanke says. That includes a system for dueling other players, which Niantic still plans to implement at some point.
Brave New Worlds
Whether Pokémon Go’s durability, two years later, surprises you likely depends on if you still play it. But its disappearance for so many people for so long underscores how little we know about what happens on other people’s phones.
“Our mobile phones are our most personal devices. We have our bank accounts linked, we have our messages to our family members, we have our emails,” Sydow says. “I think that translates here.”
Its success may also prove difficult to replicate, although you can expect a swath of imitators now that both Apple and Google have invested deeply in augmented reality, and Niantic itself has opened up its platform to outsiders.
Pokémon Go is itself, after all, a spin on Ingress, a game Niantic launched in 2012 that follows the same basic pattern—minus the Pikachu appeal. Ingress had its devotees, but without generations of Pokémon fans to tap into, it had nowhere near the cultural impact. Niantic’s upcoming effort, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, will also map a famous fictional property over the real world. As AR becomes less of a novelty than the norm, the trick will be to create those experiences without the failsafe of a megahit’s built-in fan base.
Still, surely something else will catch the same lighting in a bottle—or Blitzle in a Pokéball—that Niantic has. When that happens, all due credit to the model that enabled it: Go outside. Point your smartphone at the real world. And find some friends to do it with.（source：Wired）