Remember the bygone era of 2016? Oh, to return to that sanguine time, where instead of fretting over deadly vaping illnesses and the possibility of World War III, we all held hands and sang kumbaya united by a serious case of Pokémon Go fever that swept the globe.
But if you, like myself and scores of others who once trudged up and down their neighborhoods trying to find another damn Eevee, promptly fell off the bandwagon after a few months and considered this once-viral sensation’s heyday long gone, you’ll be surprised to learn that Pokémon Go just wrapped up its most profitable year to date. In 2019, it earned an estimated $900 million through in-app purchases, according to mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower.
That’s a hefty jump compared to the $832 million developer Niantic took in during its launch year of 2016, since it appears we’ve unwittingly entered the Twilight Zone where yesteryear’s viral hits like Pokémon Go are still relevant and Walmart automatons roam the land.
The mobile title’s earnings dipped in the years immediately following its release, Sensor Tower reported, a trajectory typically expected when these kinds of free-to-play games explode in popularity right out of the gate. Though I’m sure all the bad press over issues resulting from avid players, such as Pokémon Go causing more than 100,000 traffic accidents, didn’t help much either. Nor did its botched festival, a 2017 event attended by some 20,000 odd fans that was plagued by internet connectivity problems and rampant ticket scalping (and which later earned Niantic a class action lawsuit to the tune of $1.6 million).
Pokémon Go began to pick up steam among players again after Niantic folded in widely requested features like trading between users and improved AR effects to banish whatever demons were responsible for glitchy monstrosities like this. After wracking up $816 million in 2018, last year Pokémon Go cracked the top five for highest-earning mobile games worldwide, placing just behind Candy Crush Saga, which took in around $1.1 billion.
Of 2019's sales, $335 million—roughly 40 percent of all user spending—came from players in the United States, according to the report. Japanese players came in second, spending $286 million, with total lifetime sales passing the $3 billion mark as of last October.
It’s strangely endearing to see there are still so many players out there diligently trying to “catch them all.” Not endearing enough for me to dust off my old account, though. Instead, I’ll be Pokémon Go-ing to my couch to while away hours upon hours with games that don’t require me to get off my ass.