Not only has the launch of Legendaries made Pokémon GO shoot up to the top of the “Highest Grossing” charts in app stores around the world, but according to new data from Sensor Tower, Niantic’s game just had its most profitable day since launch, more than a year ago.
While the major news stories of the past week have mostly been focused on what a disaster Pokémon GO Fest was for attendees (now there’s a class action lawsuit coming), the end result, a stretch of days full of bonuses and the release of Legendaries, have been immensely profitable for the game, which is making close to $6 million a day.
So what’s going on? Are Legendaries and these recent bonuses just so cool that everyone is playing the game more and buying Pokecoins? That’s part of it, but the real moneymaker is mostly one aspect of this: raid passes.
The record-setting day this past week
For eons now, I’ve said that Pokémon GO, despite how popular it was, has been relatively poorly monetized. The store sells items that players only need to buy rarely, if ever. Great for them, but not so much for maximizing revenue. Pokeballs are rarely in short supply. Incense is clearly not worth the cost. Storage upgrades are permanent, one-time purchases. Even XP-doubling Lucky Eggs only need to be bought every few weeks or so for mass evolve sessions. Incubators have previously been the most valuable and most frequently bought item, but even those only need to be purchased every 2-10 km of walking or so.
Enter raid passes. And Legendary Pokémon.
I’ve made an argument before that premium raid passes are so valuable, their purchase has almost made the game pay-to-win for the first time. The sheer amount of value you get out of constantly purchasing raid passes above and beyond your one free one per day is insane. To recap, raid passes give you:
- Golden razzberries, one of the most valuable catching tools in the game.
- An endless supply of revives.
- TMs, one of the most important items in the game as they let you re-roll move sets.
- Rare candy, which can save you literally hundreds of km in walking as it can be applied to any Pokémon.
- A large amount of XP.
- Candy from whatever you catch.
- The ability to outright capture a large number of the most powerful Pokémon in the game, often stage two or three evolutions that would have taken weeks or months to evolve yourself.
- And now raids are the only place to find Legendary Pokémon as they don’t spawn in the wild or hatch from eggs.
- All that for one raid pass, just a 100 coins. But then another 100. And another 100.
See, the thing about raid passes is that you can buy them in rapid succession, and raids are designed to almost force your hand as a player to do that. Depending on where you live, the temptation to do more than one raid per day for any reason is too much to pass up. Particularly now that Legendaries have launched, it’s natural to want to try and do every legendary raid you see, particularly if you haven’t caught any yet. So what this does is turn players who maybe would have bought a few incubators or lucky eggs every few weeks into someone potentially spending 100-800 coins on raid passes every day, which is what we’ve witnessed in the last week or so. This is the first time Pokémon GO is selling something truly valuable that you feel like you have to buy frequently. Hence the spike in income.
Whether this new era is good for the overall health of the game, I’m not sure. It seems to be on the surface, but I find myself wondering if raids have taken over Pokémon GO to the point where almost nothing else matters. Catching wild spawns, hatching eggs, walking buddies all pale in comparison to the massive rewards you can reap from raids. More on that later, but for now, I just wanted to demonstrate why they’re such a huge moneymaker. And as more Legendaries are released, I don’t know if I see that slowing down any time soon.
Correction: I previously stated that you needed to keep buying raid passes to continue with a raid you’ve failed. You don’t, and it’s one pass for the whole session.