Pokemon GO is wonderful. I wanted to get that out there before floods of negativity start making their way into the conversation. It's a game that in many ways I've dreamt of since originally being gifted my Game Boy Color as a young child. After all, I do credit Pokemon Blue as the game that made me fall in love with the medium.
The idea of setting off on a journey partnered by your very own Pokemon to accompany you every step of the way is still a charming concept, and one that many (including myself) would love to see become a reality. Still, for the time being, Niantic's worldwide catch 'em all has satisfied that itch quite nicely.
Blissful first months
After launching in July 2016, Pokemon GO has gone from strength to strength, clearing the $3 billion milestone (via Sensor Tower) and achieving its best year ever in terms of revenue at $894 million from 2019. Be that as it may, it's not dominating national news or found on every street corner like those first blissful few months.
Instead, there is now a loyal group of players that have devoted hundreds, if not thousands of hours into this one game.
Following a rough start that included technical mishap and a poorly planned festival - both of which the developer would like left in the past forever - Niantic has supported Pokemon GO tremendously well.
The early days focused on the core element of catching Pokemon without the need for extensive organisation and task management. But by introducing new Pokemon generations, daily challenges, gym badges, trading, and now battles, the US firm has helped keep the game feeling fresh.
The problem is, it's all getting a little much for someone that sporadically jumps in and out every few weeks or so.
For approximately the first 18 months, I was all in on Pokemon GO. I'd call friends to arrange meeting up to play, badger my partner until she humoured me to go for a stroll, and even joined a few local raiding groups
However, like all things, time just started to get away from me, and my devotion to the game slipped for a while before I eventually made my way back via a new event or Community Day.
Yes, it's fair to say I became very casual. That's not a bad thing (even if the internet may tell you otherwise), with remote working playing a large role in my cut playtime. But my passion to boot up the app still remains strong.
More recently though, whenever the urge strikes to delve back in, I feel more overwhelmed than ever. Whether that be the number of notifications, new gameplay features - such as the newly rolled out Battle League - or gifts that need organising and dispatching to in-game friends.
It's all a lot to handle, and if I'm really serious about being as hardcore as I once was, it's simply not something that I can quickly leap in on any sudden impulse.
While the constant updates and extra level of depth are welcome additions, it leaves me curious whether others are likewise too put off from restarting their adventure anew.
The same goes for newcomers. Is the amount of content available from the off enticing, or just considered busywork? The simplicity is what helped grip both audiences. It was a fine balance of content, one that felt both manageable and fufilling.
Saying all of this, the stats don't lie. Pokemon GO's player base has decreased over time, yet those that have stuck around are more invested than ever before - proven by the average revenue per download equating to $5.80.
And, quite obviously, Niantic is much better off because of it.