If there's one thing that Pokemon GO did well, it was bringing people together. I still remember seeing groups of people around the marina near where I live in the weeks after the game came out, all of them trying to grab some water Pokemon. There was a community, a bunch of disparate people brought together to catch some make believe monsters.
Even recently, with the game losing some of that initial wow factor, events have pulled players together to try and catch them all. Which is what makes Niantic's decision to pull support for the game from iPhones and iPads that can't run iOS 11 all the more perplexing.
The community matters
Games like Pokemon GO thrive on their community. I mean, when you strip it down to the bare bones, it's really just a map with a few shiny trinkets spread around it. But the added competition of real-life players, of pitting your training skills against your friends, is part of what made the game sing from the off.
And now the step has been taken to hobble some of that community. To basically take the game away from them. Of course, I know that a lot of people will won't care. They'll have a device they can still play the game on, but the galling thing is the precedent that this is setting.
Older iPhones still dominate the market
In the middle of last year, 10% of the 700 million-ish iPhones that were in use around the world were models that couldn't run iOS 11. The newest of those was the 5C, which came out in 2013. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which came out the year after, accounted for 30% of all the iPhones in the world. Throw in the 5S, which claims another 12%, and more than half of the iOS phones in use on the planet are over three years old.
Some new games already won't run on the 6S, which came out in 2015. And that shows how big a problem serious game players could end up facing in the years to come. We can't all afford to update to the newest iPhone every time it comes out, but lagging just a couple of years behind shouldn't present such a massive problem.
More than a game console?
Yes, the iPhone is more than a device for playing games on, but look at the lifespans of videogame consoles. In the case of the PS3 and Xbox 360, they stretched into double figures. Seriously. When the Xbox 360 first came out, the iPhone didn't even exist. And since the iPhone came out just over a decade ago, we've seen 18 different models.
Bear in mind this is a game you can play on Android 4.4, which came out in 2013. If you're on an Apple device, you need to be running an OS that only landed last year. So here's a final thought. Communal games like Pokemon GO are some of the easiest to unravel.
It's not about losing huge chunks of players, but just a few here and there. When meet ups get smaller, people are less interested in going. And if your phone can't run the game any more, then you're definitely not going to bother. While there are obviously reasons behind Niantic's decision, this feels like the first cracks starting to show in the great gaming edifice that was Pokemon GO.