I’ve seen some interesting headlines recently regarding the two most hyped video game releases of the year (so far). Pokemon Go and No Man’s Sky both presented hugely ambitious, borderline unattainable concepts, and promised fans probably a little more than they could ever actually deliver. The pre-release hype for both games was off the charts, and that amounted to some record-breaking sales / download figures. Pokemon Go , for instance, was the fastest mobile game to rise to the top of the Google Play store and become both the number one most popular game, as well as the highest grossing game (despite being free to play). No Man’s Sky also broke records. It became one of the best new IP launches in Sony’s history, and boasted the best launch day numbers of any game released on Steam in 2016.
Now that the hype has dwindled down a bit and players have had hands-on time with both of these games, how are those numbers fairing? Well, Pokemon Go isn’t doing so hot. You may have noticed, as I have, that your Facebook and Twitter feed is no longer packed with screenshots of Pokemon in various real world places, or screenshots of gyms taken over by Snorlaxes (Snorlaxi?). Since mid-July, Pokemon Go ‘s daily average user count has plummeted, and nearly 15 million players have stopped playing regularly.
No Man’s Sky has also seen a sharp decline on Steam. Peak concurrent player count, as well as hourly concurrent player counts have dropped dramatically. Like, really dramatically. SteamSpy is reporting a nearly 90% decrease in those figures. It’s not uncommon for games to see 70-80% declines in peak concurrent players about a month after release, but typically you see it in more narrative, offline-oriented games like DOOM and The Witchcer 3 , which saw 85% and 71% declines a month after release respectively. For a game like No Man’s Sky , which promised hundreds of hours of exploration and an entire galaxy to explore, it’s a pretty telling figure.
Both of these games have fallen victim to their pre-release hype. We’re partly to blame for having unrealistic expectations, and the developers are partly to blame for selling us those expectations. We were expecting to somehow be able to throw Poke Balls out in the real world and catch these dynamic, living Pokemon. I thought I’d be trading that Scyther I caught for your Gengar. We thought these big public battles against legendary Pokemon would bring communities together in an exciting way.
I’m not sure where to start for No Man’s Sky . The No Man’s Sky sub-Reddit has provided excessive and damning evidence showing that what we got wasn’t what we were promised. Actually that thread, which provided extensive links and sources, was mysteriously deleted (along with its creator) from the NMS Reddit. Very suspicious, eh? Thankfully it still lives on here in the Games Reddit. It’s staggering, the experience that was originally woven into our imaginations: a real, dynamic, living, breathing, galactic sandbox. I understand that we’d be waiting another year or two if we demanded the game as it was spoken of early in development, but maybe that’s why you stay tight-lipped until you know what your team is capable of.
You can’t promise your fans the game you think you can deliver after about a year of patching. You can’t sell the vision, and then give us the reality. The difference between the two will become apparent very soon- like, a month soon – and these numbers indicate what happens once those inflated expectations are dashed. Let this be a lesson to developers and to consumers. Developers: it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver. Consumers, friends, peers: keep your expectations in check and make informed buying decisions.
What about you guys, though? Have any of you deleted Pokemon Go or let No Man’s Sky sit in your Steam library collecting dust? What were your expectations going in, and when did you realize you weren’t playing the game you wanted? Maybe some of you are still playing these games and love what they are. How do you see them evolving in the future, and why do you think the disappointment is so widespread? Sound off in the comments.