In 2016, Pokémon GO set the world on fire, lining every street in every city across the globe with eager and aspiring–if distracted–Pokémon Masters. The hit augmented-reality game achieved new milestones for the series and for mobile gaming in general. It was downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide in its first year, which had risen to over a billion by last year.
Many speculated that the game was merely a gimmick without staying power; that like motion controlled video games, it’s novelty would wear off and players would lose interest. It was a speculation that was seemingly coming true over the following year.
In terms of sheer revenue, it was the fifth highest grossing mobile game for 2016, garnering the better part of a billion USD in player spending. Unfortunately, its steam didn’t last, and by 2017 the game had dropped sharply, hemorrhaging millions of players and losing a third of its total player spending spending.
The future of the game was never in question, mind you. Even at its lowest, Pokémon GO sported millions of active users and produced hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. What was in question, however, was if the game could ever capture its previous success or if it would wage a war of attrition.
Ultimately, those fears were proven unfounded. Not by chance, but by sheer business acumen. The game maintained solid release and event schedules, giving fans a reason to keep playing and for defectors to return, all while appealing to the aspects of the Pokémon series that fans love: Cute monsters and lots of them.
Despite its first year drop-off, the game hit a steady bottom and began to recover its previous industry-leading success. By 2018, it had almost reached its 2016 levels, and in 2019 it achieved all new heights. According to Sensor Tower, Pokémon GO just had its best year ever.
The game generated an estimated $894 million last year in gross player spending, passing the $832 million it made in 2016 significantly. July and August 2019 were the game’s fourth and fifth best months ever, respectively; following the summer of its first year, in which it had its first, second, and third highest months consecutively.
In general, Pokémon GO garners a small majority of its revenue from Android, though the distribution is more even than not (56% Android, 46% Apple), proving the stability of its player base across platforms. Mirroring its release year, it was the fifth best grossing mobile game of 2019. In total, the game has lifetime player spending exceeding $3.1 billion.
Considering the strength of the Pokémon name in 2019, it’s likely that Pokémon GO will continue strong through the new year. The mainline series is poised to break more records than it already has with the new announcements from yesterday’s Pokémon Direct.
We expect that the announcement of the Expansion Passes for Pokémon Sword and Shield, and a free update that will return 200 fan-favorite Pokémon that didn’t make it into the initial release, will drive sales well into the holidays. With several other Pokémon spin-off titles on the way, the brand will remain one of the world’s most recognized and beloved.
With the brand’s ongoing strength, Pokémon GO will continue to be the premier location-based mobile game. With mobile revenue growing annually and continuing to dwarf other gaming platforms, it’s reasonable to believe that Pokémon GO will likely have their best-year-ever again next year.