As you are probably aware if you’re reading this on the Hub, Niantic has recently released a small bug fixing update, version number 0.71 (on Android). The update was not announced via the usual social media channels, nor was it acknowledged on the official Pokémon GO website.
However, hidden among various intended and unintended bug fix, the update contained a hint that something much bigger is in the works: Generation III.
To an untrained eye, this may seem random, a fluke in the development cycle matrix, a piece of code that leaked accidentally ahead of time. One can even imagine a scenario where a clumsy intern pushes of Generation III Pokémon names to the release code base and a weary senior development accepts the changes without much fuss.
This is hardly the case. The leaked info, which, in truth, is indicative of nothing more than the sheer fact that Niantic is working on the next Generation, is not leaked at all.
It’s an intended addition, a low key marketing stunt pulled in complete silence, created to reinvigorate the player base and introduce a notion didn’t fully understand before: Niantic is listening. Niantic is watching. Niantic is here, among us, very likely reading this article at the same moment as you are. And not just here! Niantic is silently observing all major player hubs: the GO Hub, the Silph Road, the Facebook groups.
But that is a topic for another day, today we want to talk about Niantic’s secretive marketing strategy: vagueness and mystery.
To turn a blind eye: data mining
Data mining, or in the case of Pokémon GO, APK mining, is very common for almost every major game in the industry. Usually, companies are very protective of their code and possible resulting leaks. Particual members of the GO Hub team had to take down their work, mostly APK mines, for a number of other mobile games.
The following has become almost a custom in this industry:
- a mobile game is released, the APK is mined
- assets, strings and other interesting info is published online (Github, etc…)
- game developers reach out, asking miners to remove the data mined info
Niantic, up to this date, hasn’t done anything similar. And why would they?
Data mines create immense hype, introduce new features and leak info ahead of time, enabling Niantic to gauge public reactions to particular features. At the same time, a special type of community gathers around online outlets that publish data mines – passionate, curious, enthusiastic players, known for providing good feedback and constructive criticism.
In other words, Niantic has allowed this symbiotic relationship to exist, in which miners can freely report and leak, while Niantic can gauge and collect player feedback.
As every relationship, this one has it’s problems also. We very fondly remember the events of last summer, when GO Hub was the first media outlet to discover the existence of an upcoming feature we take for granted today: buddy Pokémon.
Honestly, we have no illusions about this particular data mine – we’re quite sure Niantic was very angry with us. In the midst of the server issues, post release crysis and app crashes, a small online media outlet had the audacity to report on something Pokémon fans always dreamt about: having a real Pokémon buddy.
Unsurprisingly, the official announcement came a few days after the GO Hub article was published and went viral on social media.
We want to use this opportunity to apologise to the Pokémon GO team for any inconvenience we caused with that article.
The hidden marketing genius
We, as players, often complain that Niantic is not vocal enough about changes, issues and problems with the game. That is not wrong, nor we want to argue that their community interaction is perfect. We are all aware that there are problems in the community communication, messaging and response time. However, we need to give credit where credit is due.
Since February 2017, Niantic has been on top of everything. The content onslaught has been impressive, to say the least:
- Generation II,
- type based events,
- real world events,
- gym rework,
- legendary raids,
- Mew Two.
The craziest thing is that they purposely allowed almost all of that to leak ahead of time.
If you remember, and you should if you read the Hub on a regular basis, we had huge problems with the Gym rework. There was literally zero leaks, zero data mine hints and zero anything prior to it’s release.
In other words, if they want to, they can cut us out completely.
Niantic deserves a huge bow for allowing media outlets and enthusiastic communities to discover future features via data mines, while still managing to hide the really important changes.
In our humble opinion, this approach, the purposely vague release notes and allowing third party discoveries is the hidden genius behind Pokémon GO’s marketing. By hiding, being vague and introducing a dose of mystery,
Niantic has managed to create an unprecedented amount of hype behind every update – even the smallest ones.
We salute this.