Pokemon GO boasts 500m downloads, silent on growth, retention

There is perhaps little doubt that Pokemon GO is a worldwide phenomenon. Some, though, prefer to call it an epidemic. It successfully introduced the whole world to a franchise that, before then, was purely gamer and plushie territory. That gamer-only era is now officially over, with The Pokemon Company and Nitantic Labs, Pokemon GO's developers, boasting more than 500 million downloads across the globe in just under three months. That said, the announcement is unsurprisingly silent about the game's other stats, like current number of real, human players and its growth rate.

Pokemon GO plays on some of humanity's most addictive traits: collection and competition. That there are those who find the digital critters adorable doesn't hurt its case either. The Pokemon franchise was already one of the biggest names in the gaming industry. Pokemon GO just spread it to new ground even further, venturing into "casual" gaming territory.

Mainstream media covered not just Pokemon GO's rapid rise to fame, rare for a gaming franchise, but also its scandals, from poorly selected Poke Stops, to accidents and stupid antics, even to odd crimes. Of late, however, there has been some doubts about the game's sustainability, with reports of bored gamers starving for new content and things to do in the virtual world.

The recently announced Apple Watch integration could give Pokemon GO a very short reprieve and some resurgence in interest, as it would allow players to do their hunting without having to pull out their iPhones. It is, however, just a stop-gap measure. Only substantially new content (Team Leader advice may or may not count) will truly invigorate the game.

That might come today, if the rumors are true, in the form of the Buddy System. Still, there's a lot to be done to truly make Pokemon GO fulfill Pokefans' dreams, like trading and non-gym player battles. 500 million downloads in two or so months is no joking matter and Pokemon GO does deserve credit for that. Maintaining, even growing, its player base and keeping the fire alive, however, is a harder quest to accomplish.