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It took less than 24 hours for Pokemon Go to become the most downloaded and highest-grossing app in the countries where it was available. Pokemon Go, which has amassed a cult following around the world and grossed more than $250 million in revenue till date had a major chink in its armor. The game’s servers could not handle the overwhelmingly large incoming traffic. With rising anger among the players about server issues, Pokemon Go team tried calming the mob by tweeting the following:

Pokemon Go Apology

How did this craze even come into existence?

The Pokémon Company and Niantic, Inc. launched an Augmented Reality(AR) based mobile game -Pokémon Go. According to research by SimilarWeb, playing the Pokémon Go is more popular than watching sitcoms on Netflix, tweeting, or listening to music on Spotify. The company made a whopping $1.1 billion from the game since its launch. With the amalgam of cutting-edge technology and fervor for anime Pokémon, the game became an unpredicted overnight success.

Argumented Reality Pokemon go

Unexpected server crashes

After the game’s launch in the US, there were intermittent troubles with players complaining about the app’s servers being overloaded. There are also User Experience(UX) issues with complaints about the app freezing at crucial moments from several users.

Take for instance, Pokemon Go’s problems in Canada, where more than just sporadic server issues vexed users from the region. The systems stalled and became unresponsive. It’s a no-brainer that keeping a much viral app operational requires a huge scaling capacity. Either the Pokemon Go Company and Niantic seemed ill-prepared for its viral success or they simply did not realise that the app would become popular overnight.

Fans on social media lashed out on Niantic with their woes of outage in getting connected to the game and troubles in signing up. The error in connection kept the game from loading, and also caused the game to freeze midway while ‘catching’ a Pokemon.

With Google Cloud Platform evidently struggling to cope with the heavy data demands of the AR-based game, Amazon’s Werner Vogels decided to have a little fun with the downtime.

Pokemon Go AWS taunt
Pokemon Go’s launch in Japan had also been delayed due to server concerns. The launch in China and South Korea too had its own perils. Because of the security concerns in South Korea’s ongoing military stalemate with North Korea, the map data required for Pokemon Go, was harder to pull in.

Sideloading Pokemon Go

This is perhaps the single biggest reason for the server issues and the one that the makers of Pokemon Go clearly failed anticipate. to After the game’s release in Australia, New Zealand, and the US, the rest of the world was tempted to find a copy of the game outside legitimate channels. People began making tutorials for sideloading Pokémon Go onto their Android phones, and began the cycle of distributing APK file outside of official app stores.

The result?
  • Pokemon Go’s server crashes were largely caused by illegal and alternative-source downloads of the game by people in countries where it hadn’t been officially launched, created major havoc on its servers.
  • Many APKs were modified to include malicious remote access tool (RAT), which could give the hacker full access to a victim’s phone. This led to suspicions about downloading the original game from the app store too, thus temporarily tarnishing the game’s brand.
Pokemon Go’s cybercrime challenges

The disadvantage of rapid popularity is that along with eager users, you have also unwittingly opened the door to cybercriminals.

  • Back in July, Pokemon Go servers had crashed, due to which millions of users in Europe and the US were rendered unable to access the game. Subsequently, a hacking group called PoodleCorp claimed responsibility for bringing the servers down through a denial of service (DDOS) attack.
  • Pokemon Go also had to endure an embarrassing ransomware attack on their Windows application. The ransomware called Hidden Tear is currently only targeting Arabic speaking servers. But, there is the constant fear of the attack extending to other geographies

Is Viral Popularity Overrated? A look at Nintendo’s overwhelming fallout

The internet is flooded with articles on how an app or a product can be made viral.  Virality is seen as a measure of success to a large extent, because businesses see it is as proof that their idea has a very interested market.

At the outset it may seem that quick popularity and drastic rise in the number of users for your product is actually a happy miracle. But, as observed in Pokemon’s case, a hyper-viral app may bring its own set of challenges. It serves as a reminder that you should be prepared for all eventualities; for windfalls as well as washouts.

That being said, if organizations are cognizant of the intricate challenges associated with handling and satisfying a large user base, they can better focus their priority on developing a pre-emptive strategy and mitigation plan before embarking on a big launch.

The Zynga example

Every month, Zynga supports 232 million gamers, over multiple geographies. Zynga often has to scale by over 1,000 servers in a single day. Zynga resorts to cloud-bursting whenever it requires additional capacity. Over time, Zynga has perfected how to ‘own the base and rent the spike’.

There is no doubt that businesses can reap huge profits from cloud computing. In a cloud-based environment, organizations can safeguard their infrastructure’s efficiency and offer a basis for tasks such as capacity planning, and workload balancing.

Also, “if you’re not all cloud, you’re doing it wrong”, is passé. Utilizing hybrid cloud services helps you employ the best-suited environment for your organization, by incorporating a mix of on-premise and third-party cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms.

Cloud computing can be a great strategy to deal with challenges associated with sudden spikes in app usage. Finding a mature cloud provider with data centers spread over the globe could just be the one element to make your launch strategy fail-proof.

Would you like to learn more about preparing for virality or how to manage a rapidly growing user base? Do get in touch with one of our IT experts.