19 Mar 2018 19:48 IST

Second Runners-Up

Giving the game a deeper meaning

When focus shifts from result-orientation to exploration and health, cheating becomes pointless

“I watched people who would never interact with each other strike up friendships, I saw old and young people comparing what they had caught.”

There was a time when we would sit glued to our TV screens and eagerly await the new adventures of Ash Ketchum, with Poke cards in our hands and the symbolic red cap on our heads. This love for magical creatures spilled out towards Pokémon GO, with fans roaming the streets, desperately searching for the elusive Pikachu.

The movement was so widespread that it became the largest grossing game ever in mobile applications and registered around a quarter billion downloads in just a year, across 45 countries. But today, that craze has died down.

In our opinion, the success of Pokémon GO can be attributed to the brand name of the franchise, and the innovation in mobile gameplay. But its inability to respond to the changing needs, an incomplete sense of purpose, an unclear value proposition and an ineffective marketing campaign led to a sharp decline in its user base.

Change strategy

Our change strategy will be in three phases: Rejuvenation, Positioning and Sustainability.

Rejuvenation

The game managed to capture the ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ very quickly, which resulted in its huge initial success. But a failure to fix the bugs and roll out new features, couldn’t attract the early majority, neither could it satisfy existing users.

To arrest this decline, Pokémon GO’s change strategy can be as follows:

Gameplay changes :

~ An overhaul of Gyms to make them more interactive.

~ Introduction of Raid Battles and player-vs-player battles.

~ Trading of Pokémon among users.

~ Fixing server maintenance issues.

~ Resolving excessive battery and data usage.

Marketing

~ Put out ads through Google AdWords, YouTube and Facebook to communicate the launch of new features.

~ Create more connections with the gaming community via blogs and sports magazines.

~ A loyalty programme for old and honest users by giving them free Poke coins, to show the game cares about them.

Positioning

To prevent Pokémon GO from fading into oblivion like all games, the current positioning of being just a video game needs to change to:

‘A platform for community building, meeting new and diverse people, and discovering new places; all this while having fun’.

An ad campaign showing the above experiences as well as B2B partnerships (which will also serve as alternate revenue sources) can be part of the promotion.

Other options can be:

~ Tie-ups with tourist spots, restaurants and public places such as parks and malls. They will act as sponsored Pokémon Gyms or Poke Stops, and serve as a place where players can interact with each other as well as drive footfall in the location.

~ An alliance with fitness accessories companies such as Fitbit and Nike+ can help promote it as a healthy activity. It can also be presented as a game for those who love travelling and exploring.

We understand that these measures may dissuade hard-core gamers, but in the long run, it will broaden the target group by including even those who are not fans of the franchise .

A long-term solution to cheating

Developers and hackers will try to outsmart each other at every point. Thus, to prevent cheating, we suggest changing the users’ mindset towards the game.

It could move away from its aspirational characteristic to a service-based one, which users engage with everyday for different purposes. Rather than catching Pokémons for levelling up, people can play the game as an activity aimed towards exploring different neighbourhoods and as an alternative to their morning walks.

‘When there is a shift of focus from result-orientation towards exploration and health, cheating becomes pointless’.

In promotions, the story of a player who cheated but shifted back to playing legitimately because he felt cheating didn’t create thrills or fun experiences, should be highlighted.

Sustainability

The game should be a means for people to reminisce their childhood. For this, we suggest:

- Pokémon Con: A place for game enthusiasts to gather and celebrate the spirit of the game, every year.

- Experience centres: These will have holograms of Pokémons and original merchandise for sale.

To attract the coming generation which is unfamiliar with the franchise, we suggest the relaunch of the Pokémon series on Netflix and Amazon Prime. This will ensure that the series’ fan base keeps growing and with it, the game users.

It will be important for the developers to keep up with the trends of the future, tap emerging international markets, serve newer platforms such as Apple Watch and Google Glass and constantly innovate in gameplay, like support for Virtual Reality.

Through these measures, Pokemon Go will not only delight the current users and broaden its scope to include more people in the community, but also play an enriching role in the lives of millions of people for many years to come.

(The second runners up are first year PGDM students at IIM Kozhikode.)

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