Pokémon Go: Too Big to Fail and too Big to Launch


July 17, 2016

On July 6th, 2016 Niantic Inc released their new mobile game, Pokémon Go and, in a matter of days, triggered a national phenomenon. App analytics company, SensorTower, estimates that the game was downloaded a total of 7.5 Million times in under a week and generates $1.6 Million in daily revenue. It is everywhere on social media, and if you look carefully, you’re sure to spot kids and adults alike walking about looking for Pokémon.

The game ignited such a huge wave of interest, that the Niantic server infrastructure never stood a chance. In its first week on the market, Pokémon Go experienced numerous server crashes and fluctuating availability of the game. Read on to discover just how successful the game needs to be in order to crash the Niantic servers.


What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is a new augmented reality mobile application that uses a smartphone’s built-in camera and GPS system to bring the Pokémon catching experience to life. The game provides an accurate map of your surrounding area with highlighted spots of interest. Users walk around their neighborhood, and the app will alert them if any Pokémon are nearby.

Once a Pokémon is discovered, the camera will turn on, display the area in front of you, and super-impose a Pokémon onto the screen. Users then catch it with Pokeballs. The application encourages users to get outside, walk around, and participate in community competitions to see who has the strongest Pokémon.


Release and Server Crash

Niantic is in the middle of a staged release cycle that will eventually lead to global availability. The plan was to release it slowly, gauge its popularity, fix salient glitches, and move on to the next region. The first phase was to quietly release it in New Zealand and Australia. Niantic did not issue a statement or advertise its availability until it moved to America.

Once American social media got ahold of the app, it went viral almost immediately. According to Niantic Labs CEO, John Hanke, demand was much higher than anticipated, and Hanke already anticipated huge demand. The original Pokémon game sold 300 million copies in the 90s, and the franchise has found commercial success since then as movies, books, and a card game. Niantic expected a large following, but even still, Hanke is quoted as saying that “[The Pokémon Go audience is] a few hundred percent more than we had expected.”


Pokémon Go’s Reception

To put it simply, if servers are asked to perform a number of tasks beyond their computing power, they will crash. In the video game industry, it is not uncommon for large online releases to be accompanied by server difficulties in the early days. In 2012, Blizzard Entertainment released the much anticipated Diablo 3 and sold over 3.5 million copies in about 24 hours. The servers were not prepared for such a huge influx of traffic, and many gamers found that they were unable to play their game until Blizzard could account for the size of the audience.

With Pokémon Go, the audience is far larger than Diablo 3 and now rivals some of the largest internet applications on the market.

According to SimilarWeb.com:

  • 24 hours after its release, Pokémon Go was installed on more Android phones than the dating app, Tinder.
  • More mobile devices are using Pokémon Go on a daily basis than Twitter.
  • The average amount of daily time users are on Pokémon Go almost doubles Instagram or Snapchat

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For Further Reading

Augmented Reality Applications that Aren’t Pokémon Go


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