Pokemon Go: The Fad that Won’t Stop
The summer of 2016 was a magical time when making new friends on the street wasn’t weird. This was thanks to one thing: Pokemon Go. The mobile game hit swiftly, with millions of new Pokemon trainers exploring their cities while searching for the creatures. And then, as with any fad, the magic faded after a while. People stopped playing.
Well, some people stopped playing. Pokemon Go still has a core of devoted players that log on daily. I should know; I’m one of them. New features since launch like weather conditions, legendary raids, frequent events, and new Pokemon have served to keep these players interested and invested.
Moreover, the game also recently had its second community day, in which a certain Pokemon frequently appears for a few hours, along with a few extra bonuses. The limited time frame gets people out and playing at the same time, making it feel a lot like the early days of the game. My own local community day saw over 200 people hunting for Dratini at the same park. Niantic clearly thinks the idea has been successful, as a third community day featuring Bulbasaur has been announced.
All that being said, the game still has some improvements to make. This has been an ongoing narrative since launch, and Niantic should be considering what long-term changes can best serve their dedicated base. Here are the changes I’d like to see with the game nearing its two-year birthday.
1. Introduce Daily Gym Rewards
The Pokemon Go gym system has changed dramatically since launch. Gone are the days of the highest level players holding on to gyms for weeks on end and collecting up to 100 daily coins without doing anything since capturing the gym. Combat Power (CP) decay now makes it so that Pokemon become weaker while defending a gym, encouraging turnover and opening the field to lower level players.
Moreover, now you get a coin for every 10 minutes you hold a gym, up to 50 coins daily. Furthermore, you only get your coins once you’re kicked out of the gym. And here lies the problem. You’ll still only receive 50 coins for holding a gym for a week. Even though this is an improvement over the original system, it can feel unrewarding.
A simple fix would be to award a player a small number of coins (five or less) every 24 hours they hold a gym. Ideally, this would not count toward their daily limit of 50 coins, so they can still collect when being kicked out of a gym. It’s not a huge reward, but it would go miles toward increasing player satisfaction.
2. More Events Featuring Regional Pokemon
Regional Pokemon have been a part of Pokemon Go since the game launched, referencing version exclusives from the main series of games. The initial regional Pokemon were Tauros, Mr. Mime, Farfetch’d, and Kangaskhan, though more have been added as more Pokemon have been added.
The existence of regional Pokemon is fine. It adds a dynamic to the game and an extra element of rarity to certain Pokemon. However, there are day-one players that still long to complete their first generation Pokedex. In November 2017, Pokemon Go players met a global catch challenge and unlocked Farfetch’d worldwide. It’s been a year and a half since launch, and it’s time to have more of these challenges and events. It would both encourage players to be active and reward people who have put countless hours into this game.
3. An In-Game Chat System or Message Board
I’m lucky in that I live in a city with an active and well-organized Pokemon Go community. Getting together for raids and other special events is easy because of local organizers and communication between players. Not everyone is so lucky. Rural players, in particular, have had it rough since the beginning. The introduction of the raid system only made it worse for those without a dedicated community.
It would mean more development, testing, and staff, but a simple chat system or message board could alleviate the communication issue. Being able to see other active players nearby and advertise a raid or wild Pokemon would add a fun new dynamic and improve the overall experience. If you don’t have a local Facebook or Discord group to organize a raid with, you wouldn’t have to worry anymore. Additionally, it could give the same feeling of camaraderie with other players that community days have accomplished, and thus contribute to recapturing the magic of the early days of the game.
Keeping the App Popular
Overall, Pokemon Go is in a good spot, even more than a year after launch. Millions of players are still using the app every day, and regular events keep the game interesting. Even so, a few relatively small tweaks could enhance the experience of everyone, increasing the longevity of the game.