The Real Reason Pokemon Go is Failing

The Real Reason Pokemon Go is Failing

It was fun, but…

We previously wrote about what Pokemon Go did well, but why did the Pokemon Go hype not last? How did the game lose millions of players, seemingly overnight?

Only a few months ago Pokemon Go looked like a huge success: 750 million downloads; 1 billion dollar in revenues in 2016; 28 million daily active users in 2016 in the US alone. Nothing seemed to be able to bring the mighty Pokemon down.

Yet only a few months later, its grandeur has faded. Seemingly forever. Its active player base has evaporated. Globally, only 5 million people now play the game on a daily basis. And the number seems to be falling continuously.

What went wrong in a game that seemed to be such a huge success? Find out below how basic design flaws brought the Pokemon Go down.

404 error: no endgame

Pokemon Go was very successful in engaging a huge number of people through a mix of extrinsic design (XP, Collection Sets, Scarcity design and some unpredictability in finding new Pokemons). This help to get many people to jump on board.

 

However, for a successful end game to exist, the design needs to switch to intrinsic motivational design to create the needed unpredictable fun (Core Drive: 7 Curiosity and Unpredictability), autonomy (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity  and Feedback) and meaningful social interaction (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness). Unfortunately Pokemon Go failed in this aspect almost completely.

Many players began scratching their heads after realizing they were constantly picking up similar pokemon time and again in their area (it is only so exciting to find the same Ratata or Pidgey or even, though I love them, the Magikarp). This predictability led to a decrease in Core Drive 7 Curiosity and Unpredictability. There was just less and less to wonder about and explore in Pokemon Go.

The Pokemon Gyms would have been a great place to create exciting social interaction between players through combat and collaboration. However, new players find the top 1% of players have already created “monopolies” in gyms. Essentially, these hard core monopolist gamers spent more time and effort, significantly so, to level their Pokemon, essentially preventing interaction from other players in this game element. This has created a scarcity overkill: it was just to hard for most players to do any meaning social game interactions. No Core Drive 5 either then…

Finally, the way combat is designed is pretty lame and lacks the ability to strategize (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback). Most players are disappointed that combat doesn’t feel like the Pokemon games of their youths.

So what we are left with is mainly extrinsic design:

  • You keep adding Pokemons to your collection of Pokemons
  • You gather XP and level up
  • And high scarcity of available Pokemons cause you to grind (walk, travel) a lot to get more Pokemons.

The above is a fully extrinsic experience design: you mainly play the game because you expect a reward for your activities. Great for short term motivation, but…

 

Extrinsic ruins intrinsic motivation (in long-term)

Walking in nature is intrinsically interesting, but Pokemon Go is making players feel like this: “now I have to go for a walk just to collect Pokemon.” The extrinsic design bias in the game motivated us to start walking in our surroundings to add to our collection set. But after a while the extrinsic motivation has completely taken over our intrinsic desire to explore our surroundings. Now going out to hunt for Pokemon feels like a chore rather than a fun game. Motivation wanes.

Black Hat

Core Drives, 6, 7, and 8 represent the Black Hat parts of the Octalysis Octagon, and Pokemon Go veers too much toward these drives, and in particularCore Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity. Here’s a few examples:

  • It is overly difficult to obtain certain Pokemons. The scarcity is just too high and when it is, your initial motivation turns to Core drive 8: Loss and Avoidance. You just give up.
  • Gyms are zones of high competition, the Black Hat expression of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness. It is great for highly capable, competitive Alpha players, but for the majority of players it is not motivational. So a potential intrinsic design feature turned into a fully black hat experience (Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity as well as Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance)

What does the CEO believe?

When asked, the CEO mentions the collaborative gym raids as the most important recent update.

If I had to single out one, I think it’s the [gyms and raids update] that we just put out. It really is the first new mechanic that gives people motivation to keep playing, to keep leveling up pokémon, to continue to get out and be active. The collection mechanic was something that was really the heart of the game, and it still is the heart of the game for new users, but this [improves] the game for players who have reached a certain level. I think that’s the single biggest change because of that challenge and opportunity of fun that it presents to more experienced players. And also, it’s designed to encourage cooperative play, which is core to our mission.

 

I understand the emphasis on cooperative play, which invokes social influence, but the change doesn’t address the lack of creativity in the game and tries to smuggle in some achievement and epic meaning (health), which are secondary motivators. It seems Niantic would do well to consider their flaws and omissions instead.

Okay, let’s fix this with common sense and Octalysis

If you’ve gone through the trouble of enabling a vast global location-based tech infrastructure, adding just a little game design on top is totally worth it and will improve your ROI. Here are some recommendations to improve the Endgame.

  • enable trading between players
  • varying types of pokemon found even if searching in same area
  • improving the collaborative raids
  • center on gyms for player interactions, and make the gyms customizable via location-type tags
  • create group or friend quests
  • provide a more items that influence collaboration between high and low level players (option, give lures additional strength when players of varying levels are present)
  • trading or crafting items from home
  • add load out slots for additional combat strategy (CD3)
  • add distance-based quests: a sequential quest starts after a given length of walking, but can then be played while stationary later

These are just to get you started thinking about simple design updates to improve Niantic’s business metric of more daily active users. This video from Extra Credits has even more.

Making a stronger endgame

You’ve got people using your app or website, but you can’t keep them engaged? We’ve helped hundreds of companies think through these Endgame scenarios.

Get in touch right now.

joris@octalysisgroup.com

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The why and how of Gamification in Education

The why and how of Gamification in Education

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The need to restructure and create engagement in education is probably one of the biggest drivers of the meteoric rise in the interest in Gamification. Participation in digital engagement conferences like EduTech (http://www.edutech.net.au/workplacelearning_speakers.html) has grown to record levels. The amount of education providers that were present at the Gamification World Congress this year was also impressive.

So why is the education sector so interested in Gamification? Because it offers solutions to a sector often out of sync with current reality and in need of serious overhaul (as we wrote before in Octalysis Gamification: Changing the Education Game). Why does it need overhaul and how could we start to make education a lot more engaging?

Well, we have listed 3 issues that urgently need to be addressed if we want to keep educating our children for the future rather than for non-existing future jobs. We will close with good entry points for creating the engagement necessary in education.

 

fear_of_failure

The current system generates Fear of Failure
Today’s homework nowadays is pretty much like this: you either pass or fail and have to move on. You do your homework, hand it in and get a grade. Failed? Too bad son! No time to try again, as there is not time and we have to move on with new topics to learn. Homework is currently more like a zero-sum assessment than a learning opportunity.

 

Compare this to how we learn in game like experience: you fail to pass a level? Try again immediately, but now from a different angle. In a game, you are trained not to fear failure: you are conditioned to overcome it. What matters in games is that you get the solution to the problem in front of you, not getting it right at the first try. Homework is an opportunity to find ways to progress rather than to show how far you have progressed.

 

lack-of-time

Lack of time
Teachers are often under massive time constraints. There is just enough time to go through the subject matter that they are told to go through. There is hardly time for any personalization or detailed attention to specific children. But all of this is mostly the fault of the system, not of the teachers. Teachers have no time to give the instant feedback that students need while they are learning.

 

In addition, if class size goes above 10–15 pupils it becomes almost impossible for teachers to track where each and every individual student is at and with what issue they are struggling. This is where games and gamification come in. Gamified systems as such can give the rapid feedback that students need and teachers can actually concentrate on what they are best at: teaching new things and exploring depth in topics. At the same time, the learning experience can be adjusted to every single student real time, while ensuring that the correct information is presented.

 

I remember that my father (and many other teachers and professors like him) spend endless hours correcting the work of students. Can you imagine what teachers can do with the time saved on correcting?

What if they could spend this time creating more learning opportunities, supported by technology, games, and gamified learning programs? It would revolutionize the way children would learn. It would create the space needed to focus on problem solving rather than knowledge assessment. In short: it would train our children to obtain the skills they will need for future jobs rather than jobs long gone when they will be adults like us.

 

21st-century-skills-4-cs-graphic

Lack of 4Cs
So what are these key skills that people need in the new economy? They are often called the 4Cs of 21st Century skills:  Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Cs_of_21st_century_learning). These are the skills that are needed for our modern society and can only be learned through experience, not by rote learning.

 

And when you play games you always employ these skills, so in a sense many children already are trained somewhat in these skills through games.

Think of when people team up to play a game of League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm with their friends: it is all about communication and collaboration.

When I see my daughter play Minecraft and she needs to find the best solution for the world around her? It is all about critical and creative thinking

 

So why not just have them play games then? No need to change the educational system right? Wrong.

 

What is missing is that the children that play these games, do not actually understand that they are in fact learning all these skills. They lack (educational) context. And this is where teachers come in. Teachers give perspective, give background and can create a broader framework for where the learned skill can be connected to real world applications. Games can get kids to be excited about the content and teach kids basic concepts. Teachers can make all that knowledge meaningful.

So how do we implement a Gamification strategy in education?
Well, we have to address some of the misconceptions and fears that many teachers have about the effects of Gamification in education. Contrary to what many teachers fear: gamification is about empowering the teacher, not making them less relevant. I do not believe in fully stand-alone game-education. The teacher is still very important.

In fact, some research from the USA has shown that just letting children play educational games in class has less impact than having children sit through conventional lessons (in fact conventional lessons had a 60 times higher impact). However, when the power of games and the teacher were combined, all of a sudden the children performed almost twice as well as in a teacher-only setting (and more than 100 times better than in a game-only setting.

 

Get started!
So it looks like Gamifying our curriculum/classroom can have exciting rewards. But, like other Gamification projects: it has to be designed correctly. We should never forget that playing a game is a voluntary activity. The experience itself needs to create the excitement and hunger for progress in children in order for them to want to even engage in the first place. Many educational platforms these days though are function focused: the games are just a digitalization of the content that is presented in books. It is neither more engaging, nor enriching, nor does the teacher get intensively involved. As shown by the mentioned case study in the USA, the teacher needs to get involved heavily as enabler, facilitator and coach.

In addition: do not try to “kid your kids”. Children see through games that are just used to test them (like the old system does). Just because the test is in digital form doesn’t make it more engaging. Think about creating experiences where they can make their own choices, and discover their own path to solving obstacles. Teach them how to search and analyze rather than getting ‘your‘ answer right.

In Octalysis terms: design for the Core Drives that motivate people to be creative, collaborate and communicate, whilst giving them a sense of progress. We would look into what design creates enough Core Drive 3 (Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback); Core Drive 5 (Social Influence and Relatedness), as well as Core Drive 2 (Development and Accomplishment).

What would be ideal is if we can also make the learning connected to Core Drive 1 (Epic Meaning and Calling): how about being able to practice your math to calculate the heating of the earth, whilst combatting this heating by identifying the main culprit-nations to be arrested by the Climate Change Police?

Throw in a bit of Core Drive 7 (Curiosity and Unpredictability), with some surprise moments in the experience (a sudden solar eclipse anyone?) and you have the recipe for a really fun, and engaging gamified education.

 

So, changing our educational system is not that difficult to do, but of course we need political will too. Now that is more difficult, I admit, and not that easily gamified…

If you would like to know how we at The Octalysis Group create really engaging experiences, contact me:

 

joris[at]octalysisgroup[dot]com

 

 

 

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