It seems like everyone developed a hobby during the pandemic — outside of stress eating and drinking — in order to deal with the scariness and madness of the years known as 2020 and 2021. For some it was podcasting, woodworking, knitting, gardening … and for some it was Pokemon Go.
As the parent of a very bored and frustrated six-year-old (at the time), my wife and I needed something to keep our daughter occupied at a time where she had to mostly sit indoors for school and with no real options for socialization. Due to her love for Pokemon (which still burns bright till this day), we both downloaded Pokemon Go and decided that we’d take turns having adventures with our daughter hunting down Pokemon scattered throughout our little city.
However, as luck would have it, my daughter quickly fell out of love with the game … but her parents did not as we find ourselves nearly two years later still hunting Pokemon anywhere we go.
While this writer is normally late on trends and popular pop culture milestones (literally just watched Avengers: Endgame) it is wild that this augmented-reality game, which dropped six years ago, is still one of the most popular and top grossing games in the world today. In 2020, it was one of the highest-grossing games with an annual revenue of $1.92 billion. In 2021 it raked in $1.3 billion while adding $198.2 million in Q1 of this year.
Remember, this was the game that became infamous for people absent-mindedly walking into people and oncoming traffic and Poke Stops winding up in very inappropriate locations. For many, that might be all you remember about the game. However, it was absolutely massive six years ago. I can remember walking my dog at night and dozens of people walking around the various parks and neighborhoods in my city with their heads buried in their phones and their fingers gliding across their screens. Business-wise, Niantic who created the game saw their stock rise 50%, while Nintendo who owns a stake in the Pokemon Company saw their market value increase by $9 billion within a week of the game’s release.
Over the years Pokemon Go has flown under the radar in regards to headlines — the numbers do not lie, it’s a huge earner and still being used on the regular.
One might be wondering … why.
Parents of younger children will know that Pokemon, which celebrated its 25th Anniversary last year, was ever-present. You go anywhere without seeing Pikachu, Squirtle, Snorlax and the gang. Whether they were in Happy Meals, in a myriad of forms in Target, or as huge stuffed prizes on boardwalks throughout the country, Pokemon felt as popular as it did when it first burst onto the scene when this 40 year-old was still in grade school. It also didn’t hurt that kids liked Detective Pikachu and that film hit streaming during the pandemic.
Second, the game itself is the ultimate harmless form of distraction. It’s much more fun and rewarding to capture Pokemon to evolve them into something cool than doom scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. The game’s use of Google Maps technology allows for accurate geographic representations — so going to a new town, city or public place is even more exciting when you see it populated with Pokemon. There’s a never-ending quality to this game as there’s always new creatures to catch, milestones to hit, and tasks to accomplish. It really does take your mind off the greater world for a few minutes and you get this sense of accomplishment when you play the game.
So while Pokemon Go may originally be intended for kids and diehard Pokemon fans, this is a game that literally anyone can enjoy. You don’t have to know the lore, the history or have a shoebox full of old Pokemon cards. This is a game that has withstood the test of time, found newfound fandom during the darkest timeline and can easily be a top game for years to come.