The past few weeks have seen two enormously popular games lose literally millions of players and while at first it may seem like this drop off has happened for similar reasons a closer look shows this to be untrue.
No Man's Sky, the much anticipated open space exploration game that provided players with limitless expanses of space ways, planets and aliens to find, catalogue and learn from has lost 90% of its initial number of players.
Pokemon Go, the now infamous collection and geo-tracking game, has lost roughly 10 million active players as Niantic has been taking requests and removing problematic Pokestops around the world.
Both of these games didn't deliver on promises. Pokemon Go's buggy and boarderline non-functioning systems nearly cost the developer dearly and without an integrated trading or battling system players are stuck with a glorified collection game. No Man's Sky was supposed to be a game changer. Unique player experiences as a limitless expanse of planets and creatures. Instead it's a shallow game of basic resource gathering and endless walking with few of the promised interactions promised, and most damningly, none of the promised exploration and adventure with friends that was repeatedly promised.
At first glance this should be cut and dry right? Well not really. I'd argue that while we are seeing an exodus from both games that exodus is happing for some very different reasons. Let's start with the game that has lost the critical number of players: No Man's Sky.
This game has been such a colossal highlighting of the difference between development promises and released results, that it has re-sparked the debate about pre-orders and game hype. With a literal galaxy's worth of exploration available No Man's Sky was touted and promised as being the ultimate in open world exploration and gaming. Vastly different planets and creatures for players to interact with and explore. So many worlds that it was entirely possible for you to come across a world never before landed upon, and one that no one else would ever come to after you. Gamers were promised varying styles of play depending on the faction they selected to be a part of. That interactions with alien species and learning their languages would be engaging and multi-faceted.
We didn't get anything approaching this. Players on the same planet couldn't interact with or even see each other, learning languages is the same repeated logic puzzle and gives few rewards, resources are everywhere and each faction plays pretty well the same. The game is absolutely beautiful but its painfully shallow. It's no wonder the game has lost fully 90% of its player base when after 4 planets you've pretty well done everything you can.
Pokemon Go also lost players by the millions in the last few weeks. Having released the original 150 minus the legendary birds, Mewtwo and Ditto, more and more players are completing their Pokedex's and finding there isn't much else to do beyond take and hold gyms or grind up their level. Data mining has shown that the current level cap sits at 40 but the sheer amount of experience needed to hit that means that even the most dedicated players have yet to reach that milestone. With little else to do many millions left the game.
But are the two examples of the same issue?
Not in the slightest. You see, No Man's Sky is a text book case of failed promises and overhype bringing down a game. Did people get too excited about this game and hold it to a standard it couldn't possibly reach? Yes, but at the same time the game makers made promises they couldn't deliver on and released an incomplete game.
Both Pokemon and Niantic by contrast have outright said that they weren't expecting Pokemon Go to take off the way that it has. Remember that this was a game with very little press and only a few million dollars given by the parent donor, built by a company that at the height of their previous game numbered 50 people. Niantic has released several statements that what the game is now is only 10% of what their future plans are and let's remember that there are still roughly 36 million active players despite the loss of millions.
So then why the drop of 10 million players? Simple, they're on break. With only 10% of the game out there and for the reasons outlined above there really isn't reason to play past a certain point. This doesn't mean that the game has failed however. The moment that the Legendaries and Ditto are available you'll see the active player count spike again. When trading and player battling are implemented, the number will spike. When Gen 2 hits, that number will spike.
No Man's Sky may have let us down but thankfully Pokemon Go has a bright looking future ahead of it.