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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.