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Fandom Life Cycle

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The life cycle of a fandom of a work, franchise, genre, or creator can be roughly subdivided into seven stages:

  • Stage 0: Depending on the level of preemptive promotion:
    • (a) Obscurity. The work has just begun publication and is relatively unknown. Every Sleeper Hit starts off here upon release, before quickly getting popular.
    • (b) Pre-release hype owed either to the creator's previous fame or to a promotion campaign. The fandom is technically not there yet, but the seeds are sown.
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  • Stage 1: Relative obscurity. Fans are disjointed and have little communication. Cries of "It Needs More Love" are heard.
  • Stage 2: Fans begin to communicate and form clubs that will become the devoted core of the fandom. Troper Critical Mass is usually reached at this stage. Cult Classics remain here forever. A Broken Base may begin to form here or Stage 3, as passionate fans no longer need to worry about holding the fanbase together and get their potentially controversial opinions off their chests.
  • Stage 3: Fandom heads towards mainstream. Hatedom forms as a Vocal Minority, and the fandom is too small to drown them out. Most creators start paying attention to the fandom at this stage.
  • Stage 4: Fandom becomes large and organized. The majority drowns out the hatedom voices. "Normal People" outside of the fandom begin to recognize its object's popularity.
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  • Stage 5: The work becomes sufficiently ingrained in contemporary culture for even the people not familiar with it to know a lot about it, technically turning everyone into a fan. These are the works most likely to become Trope Overdosed.
    Reference examples: Batman, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, Super Mario Bros..
  • Stage 6:
    • (a) Cooldown. The fandom slips back to stage 2 from any of the previous stages, becoming a cult.
    • (b) Oblivion. The fandom goes back to obscurity from any of the previous stages.
    • (c) Destruction. The fandom completely dissolves, leaving only a handful of people dedicated to its preservation or is forgotten completely.
  • Stage X: Newbie Boom. After slipping back to obscurity, the fandom springs back towards mainstream due to external factors, such as a Continuity Reboot, Sequel Gap, or an adaptation/spin-off series becoming popular.
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Note that not every fandom passes through every stage—some stick at the early stages forever, and only a select few ever reach stage 5.


Examples:

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  • Protegent: At its peak, it was in either stage 1 or stage 2, but it cooled down and it's probably back at 0(a) or 1. The meme has mostly been forgotten and only a few people are still making edits of it.

    Animated Films 
  • Disney Animated Canon: Ranges from 2 to 5, depending on the movie. Most of the Walt Disney-era films, 1990s films and more recent films get to 4-5, but the lesser-known films of the canon have their fair share of defenders.
  • Frozen: A little less than a year after it being released, it seems to be already at Stage 4, if not Stage 5.
  • Lilo & Stitch:
    • In North America, the franchise peaked somewhere around Stages 3 or 4, but Disney's Executive Meddling of the whole franchise caused it to lose all momentum and become a strange hybrid of all three Stage 6 scenarios, if only because it's still a reasonably successful Disney-owned franchise. Most Americans today seem to only vaguely remember Stitch and the ʻohana motto, and don't recall any of the sequel films, series, or most of the other characters besides maybe the other title character. The experiments even lost their Wikipedia article in 2016 since there were very few Western fans left on The Other Wiki to defend it.note  Tellingly, Disney's last major push for the franchise over there, the airing of the Stitch! anime's English dub in 2011 (which first debuted in Australia in 2009), ended in disaster with them pulling the anime off the air after only five episodes in less than a week due to supposed fandom backlash.
      • However, Stitch still has enough popularity in The New '10s to at least have been voted into Disney Infinity starting with its second game and Disney Heroes: Battle Mode, and still gets a regular flow of merchandise. Plus, Disney has been pushing more merchandise of Angel in the States, has hosted a fan art contest with BoxLunch (Hot Topic) in 2018, and it was reported in October that year that the original film would be getting a Live-Action Adaptation in the future.
    • It's a little better going eastward with the franchise having a slightly bigger presence in Europe (not only did the anime's English and other language dubs air in full there, one can go see Stitch Live!, a.k.a. Stitch Encounter, in Disneyland Paris and possibly even see Jumba, Pleakley, and some of the other experiments over there during special events), while in East Asia, especially Japan, the franchise has near-mainstream popularity, considering the existence of the aforementioned anime and China's Stitch & Ai, Tokyo Disneyland having Stitch Encounternote  and their own exclusive Stitch-themed version of The Enchanted Tiki Room, their version of Fantasmic! having a Lilo & Stitch segment with Angel making an appearance, having more Lilo & Stitch characters available for regular meet-and-greets, and of course a crapton more Stitch merchandise being sold over there.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Black★Rock Shooter: An extreme case of a Stage 6b —> Stage 2. Once one of the most popular anime franchises of the early 2010s, it has since fallen into obscurity.
  • Digimon Adventure tri.: Stage X for the Digimon fandom.
  • Gunslinger Girl: Stage 6 A. The series has its fans but fanworks rarely get made and the fandom is disorganized. The fandom was most active in the early-to-mid 2000s.
  • Haibane Renmei: Stage 6, A. If you look up fanworks, the active fandom existed only up until 2006 or 2007. Since then it's been disjointed. The anime is well-known amongst anime fans but few have actually seen it, often due to it being hard to find copies of the anime. The anime is now available officially on Youtube and Crunchyroll digitally, and has been rereleased in physical form, so new fans pop up but the fandom itself is dead.

    Asian Animation 
  • 3000 Whys of Blue Cat: This is probably stage 0(a) in the English-speaking world because it's a kids' cartoon that has never had an official (or even unofficial) English release. In China, it's probably stage 4 or 5 due to its massive success there.
  • Noonbory and the Super 7: Currently transitioning from Stage 1 to Stage 2.
  • Simple Samosa: It had a following in India, so it was possibly in stage 1. It became extremely obscure after its cancellation, putting it in stage 6(c) and then 0(a). It's always been in 0(a) in America, however.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Stage 5 due to its massive popularity over several years.

    Fanfiction 
  • The Infinite Loops: Thanks to the Spacebattles communities, and the rock solid base of Saphroneth's MLP Loops series, the fandom currently sits at stage two.

    Light Novels 
  • Sword Art Online: Currently at Stage 4 and verging close to Stage 5, as the franchise has reached the point where nearly everyone who hasn't been living under a rock has at least heard about it. Although it has the anomaly that the Hatedom voices are the ones that drown out the fans, instead of the other way around, despite the fact that the numbers show they are still a Vocal Minority.

    Literature 

    Live Action Films 
  • High School Musical: It's sitting at Stage 3, mainly thanks to Disney Channel continuing to air it well into the 2010s to new sets of teenage girls.
  • Jurassic World: Definite Stage X, for both Jurassic Park fans and mainstream dinosaur fans on the whole.
  • Star Wars: This is one of the few films that you can count on everyone having seen or at least heard of. It's stage 5.
  • The Wizard of Oz: A Solid 5.

    Live Action TV 
  • Banshee: Stage 1 or 2, depending on what circles you run in- the show is beloved on Something Awful and has a fairly active subreddit, but is otherwise almost completely obscure.
  • Hannah Montana: It reached Stage 4 during the peak of its popularity in 2008, but is now sitting at Stage 2 with a cult following.
  • Power Rangers: In the odd case of being a 90's pop culture icon that's still ongoing.
    • Power Rangers as a whole is at Stage 6a, far from its glory days.
    • Mighty Morphin by itself is at Stage 5. Anything else within the Zordon Era is Stage 2.
    • Lost Galaxy through RPM can go down to Stage 1.
    • The Neo-Saban era has brought minor Newbie Booms, with each season managing to be around Stage 2 while it's airing.
    • The 2017 film hopes to launch the franchise into Stage X.
  • Star Trek: With several TV series and other media, it's popular enough to be stage 5.
  • The X-Files: Definitely one of the very few that went through the whole cycle and reached the mainstream recognition. Even people who never watched a single episode are likely to know who Mulder and Scully are.

    Music 
  • Justin Bieber: Came in reach of being a household name at his peak, but has since gone back to merely having a modest sized fandom of particularly dedicated fans and otherwise being a gigantic target of mockery, and thanks to his big comeback, he's firmly a household name again.
  • One Direction: On the border between Stages 4 and 5.
  • The Wanted: Was Stage 2 or 3 at best, but has since fallen to Stage 6(b).

    Podcasts 
  • Acquisitions Incorporated: The series seems to have entered Stage 4, as Scott points out in season 8: "Remember how they all used to hate us? Now they're helping!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • Star Wars d6: It's reached stage 6, but some fans are still playing it.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE: Almost got as high as Stage 4, but reverted to 6a almost immediately after the line's initial cancellation.

    Video Games 
  • BioWare: BioWare fandom has entered Stage 3 with the double-punch combo of Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2 (though some would argue that it happened as early as Knights of the Old Republic). Stage 2 has been reached with Baldur's Gate II, and time will only tell whether and when they fully transition to Stage 4 (Mass Effect 3 and SW:TOR have so far been unsuccessful at bringing that about, while Dragon Age II, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Mass Effect: Andromeda have only fueled the Broken Base, preventing upwards progression).
  • Doom: The classic Doom games seem to be in stage 6a, with an active community.
  • The Elder Scrolls: To date, each new game in the series has eclipsed its predecessors in the popular consciousness. Previous games mostly wind up at Stage 6A in the Fandom Lifecycle, still played (and modded) by fiercely dedicated and very militant fandom cores. These games often experience a resurgence whenever a new game in the series is announced as fans replay them in anticipation.
    • Although a hit when it was first released, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was eventually eclipsed by its sequels in popular eyes (arriving at Stage 6a of the Fandom Life Cycle). Nonetheless, it is still actively played and modded by a fiercely dedicated and very militant fandom core to this day.
  • Geometry Dash: Stage 2 or 3 at this point.
  • Kahoot!: Kahoot! is frequently played by students during the school year, putting it at stage 2 or 3. During break, it goes to stage 6(b) because no one has to study. When school gets back in, it goes through stage X and gets back to stage 2/3 because people begin playing it again.
  • Kirby: Currently at a Stage 4, but this is a recent development, oddly enough. Despite being a long-running series that sells well, having a very recognizable main character, and being adapted into a generally liked anime series, Kirby barely edged at a Stage 3 for most of its life. This can be attributed to the games' limited appeal to the bigger game demographics (which also resulted in some Critical Dissonance for the earlier games), inconsistent releases throughout the 2000s, and generally being overshadowed by other Nintendo franchises. The series had its first big break when Super Smash Bros. Brawl gave it a large focus, and fully broke into the mainstream around the release of Kirby's Return to Dream Land in 2011. Since then, there's been a steady release schedule of new games and merchandise, and Kirby games are often considered major releases.
  • LittleBigPlanet: At one point it was a 3-bordering-on-4, but it's since cooled back down to a 3.
  • Mirror's Edge: The Mirror's Edge fandom is quite firmly in the Stage 2 (Cult Classic), as all players who still care about the game love it to bits but are comparatively few in number.
  • Pokémon: As a whole, the franchise is squarely a 5. It is one of Nintendo's best selling series, has a very long running anime series, and has influenced quite a few corners of popular culture.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Has hovered around Stage 5 (full mainstream status) since the beginning, even though it is not as big as the in the early 1990s.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Stage 5, because the Mario series is basically the most well known, popular video game series in history. Especially true of the 'Mario Mania' years, wherein American children knew Mario better than Mickey Mouse.
  • Wario Land: Along with its related series WarioWare and the other Wario games, probably one of the only series that both sells more than a million copies and yet is still somehow in phase 1 of the list, with it somehow having nothing of an organised fandom. Various people have questioned exactly why this is.
  • WarioWare: Somewhere between phase 1 and phase 2, which is kind of odd given the popularity of the series. If you ever need proof of this, just try and find a forum/fan site for the WarioWare series, it's much harder than you think... The Mario spinoff games tend to have inactive fandoms compared to the main game and RPG spinoffs.

    Webcomics 
  • Endtown: Appears to have managed the remarkable feat of jumping straight from Stage 3 to some variation on Stage 6.

    Websites 
  • The Zimmer Twins: Was a Stage 3 that skipped 3 stages ahead and cooled down. Later, it skipped back to Stage 6 but this time it suffered the fate of destruction.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Somewhere between Stage 2 and Stage 3. It has a huge amount of fanworks (even back when all that existed was the 2012 trailer it had hundreds of fanfics and even more fanart) but hasn't seemed to become a very mainstream cartoon like the Gravity Falls or Steven Universe fandoms yet (likely due to Nickelodeon's shabby treatment of the show in the US- hopefully the switch to Netflix will remedy these issues and expose the show to a wider audience).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: You can make an argument for every stage from 4 on.
    • Stage 4 "large and organized," without a doubt. Sites like Equestria Daily and Fimfiction.Net are still running strong, and fan artists are still making things left and right.
    • Stage 5 (sufficiently ingrained in contemporary culture for even the people not familiar with it to know a lot about it). The fanbase has been referenced on Saturday Night Live (not positively, mind you, but then no "nerdy" thing ever is), The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and so on, and the general populace are aware that bronies exist. Andy Price, one of the comic artists, makes an argument that MLP is still in this stage in a "Fandom Files" podcast.
    • Stage 6: While mid 2011-early 2013 was undeniably the "golden age" (though 2015 was the year in which convention attendance and fan activity was the highest) it is impossible to deny that the fandom as a whole has changed. Whether that be for better or for worse remains to be seen, but there are arguments for a Stage 6 existence.
      • A (Cooldown): Not nearly as "flavor of the month" as a new fandom anymore, with new shows like Steven Universe, Star vs. the Forces of Evil, and other such shows gaining a massive Periphery Demographic as well, the fandom has simply devoted time to other things.
      • B (Oblivion): While bronies are still out there, they are more and more slipping out never to return, with many former bronies calling it "losing the spark" and it not coming back. As well, several conventions have closed their doors permanently (including flagship con BronyCon, closing in 2019), meaning that representation is dwindling.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants is a firm stage 5, being one of, if not the most popular animated series of the new millennium. You would be very hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't even heard of the show, not to mention it gets a lot of memes made out of it in comparison to other shows, particularly from the first three seasons.
  • Total Drama: Currently at stage 3, but is nearing the brink of stage 4.
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