Building long-tail success after a breakout game

For many gamers, Pokémon GO was an exciting fad that ate up their summer and was just another chapter in a franchise. A lot of these people would already treat the game like some sort of nostalgic mid-2010s hit, but the game is minting cash from users at a more expansive rate that ever. A report in Sensor Tower this week estimated that 2019 was Niantic’s best year to date in terms of in-app purchase revenue from Pokémon GO users, noting that the company likely pulled in nearly $900 million according to its estimates.

The rate of user revenue is still lower now than it was following launch, Pokémon GO launched in just a few markets at the beginning of July 2016 and Sensor Tower estimates its revenue reached $832 million in the final six months of that year. But with higher year-over-year totals compared to 2017 and 2018, the estimates do suggest that Niantic’s aggressive updates to gameplay and its in-game social features helped boost revenues.

The truth is, every couple years there’s a new gaming title that accumulates users at a startling pace. What happens after the press cycle churns and the game is left to its own devices is where the great studios prove themselves. Niantic is in a cushy position as its breakout title fills its coffers, but the company still has some soul-searching ahead of it as it simultaneously aims to chase a follow-on hit and a developer platform.