Pokémon GO has been a monumental success since its launch earlier this month, quickly reaching over 75 million downloads and topping the mobile revenue charts in dozens of nations around the world in record-breaking time. Unfortunately, this immense popularity has led to server overload, making the game hard to play for some and delaying its release in many countries around the world, including Japan.
Speaking in an interview with Forbes, Niantic Labs CEO John Hanke tackled a variety of
Pokémon GO topics, including the numerous server issues. While Hanke believes Niantic now has the situation under control, he revealed that initial surge of users was far greater than what they had prepared for. In fact,
Pokémon GO attracted so many players in its first two weeks that the active user base was where Niantic expected it to be a year from now.
Forbes: How many people did you expect to sign up for the game?
Hanke: We expected tens of millions of users to sign up and create accounts…. Based on our projections, we got, in the first two weeks, somewhere we expected we’d get sometime by the middle of next year.
Forbes: Did you do any market research to figure out how big this thing would get?
Hanke: We didn’t do much research. We had one data point which was Ingress. We had another data point from The Pokémon Company about how many people were in the Pokémon fan club and how many units there game has sold and we looked at those two things and we said we got this set of potential “lapsed users”–Pokémon people that are maybe not actively playing the DS games today but did at one point in time. It was that set of people and a good portion of them we thought would be potential users for this game.
I think we got that set of people, but I also think we got a whole bunch of other people that maybe knew about it through friends, or grew up with it or Pokémon was a cultural touchstone, but wasn’t something that they were deeply into.
Forbes: Server issues. How have you dealt with those?
Hanke: The system was built to scale and built to add additional users, but you don’t really know how that’s going to work until you stress the system at those levels of usage. As we started adding more users, we found that certain things broke and had to be repaired quickly. Typically the way it works in a situation like that, you fix something here and that relieves some pressure but then that forces more pressure somewhere else in the system and you have to fix that… We had this cascading set of things where we added more machines and things broke at this level then we fixed them, and things broke at this level then we fixed them, and things broke at this level then we fixed them.
We’re now at a level that we’re at pretty good shape from where things go from here. We were servicing a very large amount of concurrent users.
Now that Niantic has had a few weeks to get things under control, are you happy with how Pokémon GO runs, or are server problems still plaguing your experience? Sound off in the comments!