19 Mar 2018 20:02 IST

Fourth Runners-Up

Penalise cheaters in a phased manner

Soft bans and shadow bans have proved to be ineffective

The revamped strategy for Pokémon Go to achieve its short-term and long-term objectives can be divided into two broad areas — proactive (expansion) mode and reactive (consolidation) mode.

Proactive steps

Proactive steps would include adding new features and broadening channels to attract new users, and retain existing users. This will help broaden the appeal of the brand in new markets. This is in line with the strategy to establish the brand as a long-term franchise.

Some of these steps would include (but are not be limited to):

— Additional multi-player gaming model: The game can take advantage of multi-player models, such as massively multi-player online role-playing games. For example, users can form teams in different geographies and compete together. This will enable them to have a more immersive experience, which is further enhanced by augmented reality (AR).

— Enhanced gamer security: Safety features can be introduced in the game so that physical harm and subsequent negative publicity can be eliminated.

— Repositioning: The game can be repositioned as either a game-cum-fitness app, as playing it involves a lot of walking, or as an interactive tourism app that encourages users to travel the world to catch Pokémons. This will open new avenues for revenue generation through the tourism industry or from fitness brands — Fitbit, for users to record activity, or sports brands such as Nike and Adidas, which offer virtual accessories within the game.

— Omni-channel branding: New marketing campaigns with a wider reach need to be designed for omni channels. For example, releasing an animated movie (on the lines of the Angry Birds movie), or building Pokémon AR studios in new geographies to offer potential users an immersive AR experience.

— Hint system for higher levels: An engaging hint system could be embedded into the game so that the users reaching higher levels don’t lose interest in the game. These hints could follow the freemium model wherein some hints could be offered for free or for points, while others will need to be purchased by the users.

— Pursuing new partnerships: Niantic can enter into agreements with new channel partners, such as Facebook and Instagram to reach a wider audience.

— Exploiting data: Data collected about user activity on the game can be utilised to exploit the advertising potential further using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

— Sell limited edition items: Niantic can sell merchandise to hardcore Pokémon fans. These items would be in physical form, costly to buy and must be portrayed as limited-edition items.

Reactive steps

Reactive steps will address the various issues faced by users that led to the decline in consumer interest. These steps would include measures to discourage cheaters.

— Robust infrastructure: More infrastructural investments need to be made so that the user experience is not negatively impacted by recurring server maintenance issues.

— Incremental consequences system: Major steps need to be taken to address the issue of cheating by some gamers with the help of spoofing apps. Soft bans and shadow bans have proved to be ineffective in this regard. An incremental system of consequences needs to be put in place, which will penalise cheaters in a phased manner:

1. On the first instance of cheating, the points accumulated by the user can be deducted and in-app purchases be made more expensive using a dynamic pricing mechanism.

2. On the second instance, the Pokémons already captured by the users can be released.

3. The user’s account can be suspended temporarily the third time they cheat.

4. Further cheating could lead to the permanent disabling of the user account.

(The fourth runners-up are first-year PGPM students from SPJIMR.)