Pokemon Go is one of the most successful apps of all time, accruing almost $1 billion in revenue in 2016. One of reasons why Pokemon Go was so successful was the capitalization on the fandom of a 20-year-old franchise. Many adults who played Pokemon as a kid, and many kids playing it now, loved the idea of exploring the world to find an array of cool creatures. Pokemon Go gave folks who could previously only fantasize about “collecting them all” the chance to make that fantasy come true.
There are many great things about Pokemon Go and even though Niantic isn’t through with the game, there’s room for improvement. When it comes to what Pokemon fans loved most about Pokemon and playing the games, Pokemon Go didn’t include those cornerstones. Also, as much hype as there was about Pokemon Go when it was first released, much of that excitement got lost as the months went on because the game lacked enticing incentives to keep people playing after the fad wore out. Those two shortcomings are best illustrated in this list of 15 dumb ways Pokemon Go failed fans. Ultimately, this list is full of dumb moments, as the failures are either easy fixes or gaps that should’ve been seen and addressed by now.
When players trade in Pokemon to Professor Willow, it makes sense to receive only one candy for super common Pokemon like Rattata and Pidgey. But, one candy for a Dragonite or even an Ivysaur is kind of a rip off. The amount of time and effort it takes to get a Pidgey or a Rattata is much smaller than a Dragonite, Ivysaur or any other second or third stage Pokemon. Okay, candies aren’t the biggest deal breaker in the world. However, it’s strange the game includes tiers for the number of candies it takes to evolve a Pokemon, tiers for the distance players need to walk with their buddy Pokemon and tiers for the distances to hatch eggs, yet there aren’t tiers for the number of candies you receive when you transfer different Pokemon.
To hatch an egg, players must walk 2 km, 5 km or 10 km, depending on the type of egg. Most players don’t have a problem with the walking. The frustrating issue is how the game tracks the distances and determine when an egg is “hatching.” The game checks every four minutes how far the player has walked. Unfortunately, if the player closes the app before the next distance check, then distance obtained since the last check isn’t registered. Also, when actually walking, the eggs don’t seem to register the same distance that you walked i.e. you walked a 3 km route but the egg only says 1.9 km. Niantic also released an update in January to eliminate “GPS drift,” which is the slight movement of the character that happens when the player is standing still. The movement used to count toward eggs, but not any longer.
It’s great to complete the Pokedex, achieve the gold requirements for all of the medals and reach Level 40, but besides that, there’s no real end game to Pokemon Go. None of those accomplishments are really difficult. They just take time. And, players don’t unlock anything special if they complete everything that’s possible up to this point.
There’s no final trainer or final Pokemon to defeat as a way to “beat the game.” There’s no “hard mode” or any challenging way to play the game differently i.e. catch only bug Pokemon, so players can create their own win conditions. The failure for fans here is that Pokemon Go functions more like a casual game that goes on forever, when what Pokemon fans loved was the more role-playing aspect of the series, which allowed for personalization and strategy.
Especially early on in Pokemon Go’s release, fans found Niantic’s lack of communication regarding updates, what they contained, and the status of server issues incredibly frustrating. Yes, server issues happen with every app and online game. No, not every update means a major change to the game’s mechanics. However, for all other updates and server problems, players had trouble figuring out why changes were being made or when a server outage was going to be resolved.
The flip side to the lack of communication is the communication of features that don’t yet have a release date, if they will be released at all. When will players see the legendary birds, or Mewtwo and Mew? What about shiny Pokemon? What about one-on-one battles and trading, which Niantic has said they were working on? The list could go on.
There is debate among players regarding which in-game tracking system was the best. Some think it’s never been better, since all it takes to find the Pokemon you want to capture is to go near the Pokestop shown in the radar. Some prefer the original tracking system, where players had to watch the footsteps and do some guesswork about which direction to walk in to find the sought-after Pokemon. The original tracking system, at least, wasn’t dependent upon Pokestops and could be useful to players that don’t live in large cities (more on that later).
The original tracking system also encouraged the most walking, as there was no other way to find the Pokemon than to do the walking. The original system was also truest to the intent of getting players out and about and closest to what Pokemon hunting would look like if the Pokemon world wasn’t fiction.
A player needs about 200,000 experience points total to reach Level 20; still a lot but not much of a slog to acquire. The climb really gets steep after this point, as the player needs an additional 100,000 XP just to go from Level 22 to Level 23. Sure, Levels 20 and higher shouldn’t necessarily be easy to achieve, but there’s not much reward for reaching the higher levels except for Max Revives, Max Potions and the fact that you can say you did it. Considering that gyms are a waste of time unless you’re at least level 30, there’s not much point going beyond Level 20. For fans that spent a lot of effort getting that far, the light at the end of the tunnel can seem pretty dim.
Let’s face it: when Niantic pulled the plug on third-party trackers, they also pulled a lot of fun out of the game. Sure, the third-party trackers were necessary early on because the one in the game was completely unreliable. Once the in-game one improved, Niantic cracked down on third-party trackers and threatened to ban players that used them. The developer’s perspective is understandable; however, the third-party trackers were often made by players and fans for other players and fans. Really, taking down third-party trackers removed an organic expression of fandom and appreciation for the game and a way for players to connect about the game outside of the game. Ultimately, the third-party trackers were a ‘mod’ that, in hindsight, added more value than detriment to the gaming experience.
Right now, players can only battle other players in gyms. It’s better than no battles at all, but going back to what made Pokemon the phenomenon it is today, random battles were part of the original games and part of the grind. In the video games, it’s very difficult for players to get through the entire game without spending time battling the random non-playable characters and the random encounters with wild Pokemon. Granted, placing NPCs with AIs capable to battling humans in no easy feat. But, considering that players are encountering wild Pokemon ALL THE TIME, adding the option to battle a Goldeen instead of just ‘catch or not to catch’ would suffice for the random battle issue. It would spice up the game while also recreating an aspect of Pokemon that makes it, well, Pokemon.
Niantic has taken steps to block certain types of cheating i.e. third-party trackers, bots. But, there are other methods where the developer hasn’t taken any action. A player placing a Mr. Mime in a U.S. gym is not (always) cheating. A player running multiple accounts and using all them to claim a single gym? GPS spoofing? Selling your account? Those are examples of cheating and there are no repercussions for those actions, except maybe the ire of other players.
It’s not possible for any game to eliminate all cheaters all of the time, but cheating methods listed could’ve been avoided. Tying accounts to the device itself or to a phone number, instead of an email, would solve the first and third methods. GPS spoofing is harder to fix, as players can use a separate app to trick the phone’s GPS location.
To ensure players didn’t play Pokemon Go while driving, Niantic included a speed cap of 20 mph. That’s understandable for safety reasons. However, if you are moving at 20 mph or faster because you’re on a bus or in the passenger seat, then players can’t catch Pokemon or access Pokestops. The speed cap was especially aggravating when winter hit, since players were no longer going to be walking around in freezing temperatures and adverse weather, but still wanted to play the game. Fans who take public transit regularly were also disappointed, as commutes were often the only time players could access Pokestops. Perhaps Niantic might’ve been better off instituting no cap at all, and letting players decide for themselves the value of “Pokemon Go while driving” and creating a community culture that discourages the practice on its own.
If you started playing Pokemon Go last month, then participating in gyms will almost always be a lesson in getting your butt kicked. Unless you’re at least Level 30 and have a Pokemon with at least 2500 CP to place or to fight in the gym, then there’s little you can do to win except throw a ton a Pokemon at a gym that happens to have one or two Pokemon defending it.
That’s not a whole lot of fun for a Pokemon fan that doesn’t have the time to grind the way others might have. And the game has little else to offer besides completing the Pokedex and collecting the gold medals. So, when participating in gyms is just about impossible because you just started or aren’t Level 35 yet, then that’s quite a bit of game that’s rendered inaccessible.
It’s the same handful of Pokemon stationed at gyms: Dragonite, Rhydon, Gyarados, Snorlax, Vaporeon, Arcanine, and Exeggutor. As demonstrated in no. 5, there’s little strategy to fighting and maintaining gyms. Plop the highest CP Dragonite you have or risk losing the gym in 10 minutes. Because of that, there’s little incentive to hunt Pikachus and get a massive Raichu to counter Dragonite, Vaporeon or Gyarados. There’s no point in working to get a really strong Victreebel or Vileplume if they’re never able to compete on the same level as an Exeggutor. Sure, some Pokemon are better than others, but the lack of variety in what works for gyms means fighting and maintaining gyms is more about following the formula than doing any work to “git gud.”
For fans that live in a city or the suburbs, then there are plenty of gyms and Pokestops that make it easy for players to participate in the game. For fans that live in a smaller town or a rural area, then the player doesn’t quite have the same gaming experience and that’s a major let down. It takes longer to level up because there are fewer opportunities to earn experience points. It’s much harder to complete the Pokedex because some Pokemon just won’t spawn, and not every player is willing or able to drive an hour or more just to play a mobile app. Players shouldn’t feel like they have to drive long distances or take a day trip to get the full experience when other players don’t have to go to those lengths.
The inability to battle other players is a failure to fans for several reasons. First, battling other players was part of the allure of the Pokemon video games when they first came out (who else remembers settling scores on the playground with two Game Boys and a Game Link Cable)? Second, without this ability, Pokemon Go lacks a social component beyond interacting with players face-to-face. Players can’t interact with their friends without seeing them in person. Third, as stated in previous listings, the game doesn’t involve much strategy or competition. The ability to battle other players would at least somewhat address the shortcomings of gyms by allowing lower level players to battle on an equal playing field and provide an opportunity for players to try different Pokemon beyond the main five or six found in gyms.
Trading Pokemon was one of the core and foundational mechanics of the video games and the card game! Trainers couldn’t even complete their Pokedex without trading, since Pokemon like Haunter and Kadabra only evolved to their final form when traded to another player. Others, like Growlithe and Vulpix, were only available in one version of the video game. And there was no way for players to get all three starting Pokemon and all three Eevee-lutions without trading. So, for players to still be unable to trade with each other months after the game’s release is a huge failure for fans. Although trading isn’t required to complete Pokemon Go’s Pokedex, trading is such a hallmark of what makes the Pokemon games. Creating a Pokemon game were players don't have the ability to trade is just a glaring omission on Niantic’s part.