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Have We Reached Peak 'Pokémon Go'?

Player retention seems strong, but new downloads are declining quickly in the United States.

by Leif Johnson
Jul 24 2016, 3:30pm

Image: Tydence Davls/Flickr.

For weeks now it's been easy to form the impression that Pokémon Go has nowhere to go but up. It's shattered mobile records, crushing the likes of Candy Crush Saga. Millions of players are playing it even as we speak, and that knowledge has pushed publisher Nintendo's stock value to levels it hasn't seen in years. And yet, we may have already seen the most extreme of its successes in North America. A new report from SurveyMonkey Intelligence shows that Pokémon Go isn't going away anytime soon, but it apparently already reached its peak on July 14 and has been slipping into decline ever since.

Image: SurveyMonkey.

For most other games, a decline like that so soon might be worrisome, as July 14 came along a mere week after Pokémon Go's U.S. launch. The big difference is that many other games never come close to reaching those numbers, let alone reach them so quickly. According to Survey Monkey's estimate, over 25 million people in the United States were playing Pokémon Go by the end of that week, while it took games like Candy Crush Saga months to reach those kinds of figures. Even now, with the decline clearly visible on the charts, more than 20 million people play the game daily.

Image: SurveyMonkey.

The more telling signs of decline show up on the download numbers. Pokémon Go's greatest day for downloads was actually its July 7 launch date, when almost six million budding pokémon trainers download it to their phones. Save for a couple of substantial jumps a few days later, it's never again reached those kinds of numbers. As of Wednesday, July 20, the last day covered by the data, only around a million people per day were still jumping into the game for the first time. Even so, the previous chart shows that millions of those users are still sticking around, and that's potentially much more important for maintaining a healthy cash flow.

This means we've probably reached peak Pokémon Go in the United States, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Pokémon Go's record-breaking growth means it reached market saturation almost immediately—Apple even told TechCrunch that more people downloaded it in the first week than any other app ever—and after that it really has nowhere to go but down.

This, of course, is just the American perspective. Only yesterday did Pokémon Go release in Nintendo's native Japan, where reports of massive interest and server troubles are mirroring its reception in the States.

But as Nikkei reports, the signs of decline and the complicated nature of the licensing are already causing some investors to cash in on their stock profits, even as Nintendo's stock continues to surge to heights unseen in years. Part of the problem is that all of the money being made from Pokémon Go doesn't go directly to Nintendo. The famed game company owns only a 32 percent share of Japan's Pokemon Company, and additional fees must go to Niantic, the American studio that actually made Pokémon Go.

Nintendo itself acknowledged these complications in a letter to investors on Friday, in which it claimed income from Pokémon Go had a limited effect on the company's financial results "Because of this accounting scheme."

"Taking the [ Pokémon Go] situation into consideration, [Nintendo] is not modifying the consolidated financial forecast for now," the statement read.

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