Niantic's Marketing Team Prepares for Winter

December 02, 2016

The beauty of simple, straightforward games is that they are mind-numbingly entertaining. Take Candy Crush, for instance. It became a huge phenomenon a few years back because it was fun and simply required swiping a few fingers—almost like an updated version of Bejeweled. Similarly, Fruit Ninja is wildly popular due to its simple yet addictive nature. The problem these types of games run into is when that easy game becomes unexpectedly harder. No one wants to get up to level 90 only to end up stuck there for days because it is much more difficult than the rest—I’m speaking from Candy Crush experience, here. So yes, while it’s true that games with simple concepts are appealing, and of course they have to get harder the farther a player goes, it becomes a problem when the game becomes almost impossible to play.

Not being able to level up is a big problem for many games, including Pokémon Go. The concept is simple: walk around, catch Pokémon, spin some Pokétops, and level up. Easy, right? Not necessarily anymore. Thanks to several new updates, catching Pokémon has become more difficult. For instance, players can no longer drive around looking for the little monsters because they have to be going under a certain speed to play. Niantic has undoubtedly made it harder to catch Pokémon, but now it’s facing an all new problem: players are having a hard time even finding them.

Shocking as it may seem, there are still a good amount of people willing to walk around town looking for Pokémon. However, recently they’re becoming harder and harder to find. No Pokémon means no leveling up which, as we’ve established, spells certain doom for Niantic’s game. The company is addressing this latest problem with a new update, a “Nearby” tracker.

The tracker allows player to see when a Pokémon is located near them in the game’s map. The map uses Pokéstops for reference, and then indicates where the Pokémon is in relation to the Pokéstop. This allows users to have a direction, rather than just wandering around in the hopes of stumbling across a little monster.

The introduction of the tracker is an important moment for Niantic, because it shows that the company is finally listening to its users. The update is not available everywhere yet, though; Niantic will slowly roll it out everywhere after receiving feedback from those who do have the tracker, and making changes accordingly.

While this is a positive move by Niantic, the company is facing another problem. It’s getting colder and, no matter how close a Pokémon is, most people aren’t going to want to walk around looking for one, tracker or not. And, due to Niantic’s less than popular speed restriction update, people can’t even drive around in their warm cars collecting Pokémon. Again, no Pokémon means no leveling up, which means bad news for Niantic.

                   Image via Bigstock

However, as a recent article in Forbes speculates, Niantic may have another update up its sleeves to address this problem. Some people believe that a winter update is coming that will introduce the next generation of Pokémon. Niantic cannot afford a huge drop-off of players over the winter months, and a whole new group of Pokémon to catch might be the motivation players need to get out and about, even if it is cold out. Personally, I think the winter months would be an excellent time for Niantic to introduce some limited edition winter/ice Pokémon that players can only catch during a few months—that would certainly be motivation for dedicated players.

The article suggests that Niantic may have another reason for releasing a new generation of Pokémon during the winter: marketing and better sales. If players want all new Pokémon but don’t want to wander around in the cold, they could always buy some gadgets from the store. For example, a player could buy incense from the game’s store, which could then be used to attract Pokémon to his/her location. Similarly, Lures can be bought to attract Pokémon indoors. That means less time in the cold for the player, a new Pokémon in the Pokédex, and more money in Niantic’s pocket.

Whether Niantic is actually releasing the second generation of Pokémon remains to be seen. However, it could be a smart move on the company’s part in terms of sales from the store. It would also be wise in terms of branding, marketing and the game’s image. Adding a “Nearby” tracker shows that Niantic does in fact care about users and their requests, but the company could take that sentiment a bit farther by adding more Pokémon—an update that has been requested for a long time. 

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