I’m more than a little biased about Pokémon GO (as evidenced by my blog being almost entirely about it so far, I swear I have other interests). I can earnestly say that the new update announced just yesterday 6/20/17 has me excited again. Not quite that wide-eyed wonder that the game had me in on release, but certainly feels like a step in the right direction which honestly feels like a first for Niantic.
Niantic is in a difficult position, they need to provide updates to their game to keep it interesting and profitable. However they had quite nearly painted themselves into a corner with Pokémon GO as it currently exists. Any new changes or improvements they want to make have to adhere to the game as it currently is, in that they cannot make changes that strip the player of earned digital property.
It feels BAD as a player to have your hard work invalidated, such as having your resources (items, Pokémon) taken away, or having their value decreased (i.e. nerfed). Niantic wants to avoid making players feel worse, so any updates they have in mind have to work off of the existing infrastructure of Pokémon GO. That’s quite a challenge, I know I have more than my share of complaints about the current state of the game.
I appreciate the design choices Niantic is making, working to strengthen the current game without invalidating existing content, especially the introduction of Raid bosses. I would say that this game’s greatest strength, most defining quality, and proudest mark on the developer’s report card is the way that back in July/August of 2016 they brought thousands of people outside in a social gathering around Pokéstops and Gyms, on tracks and trails calling out to others playing the game “an Ivysaur spawned down the road!”. This is an incredible feat, and Niantic is zeroing in on that feeling with Raid Bosses. Having a countdown timer to let people all around know when an event is happening, needing a large number of people to be able to battle together, and having powerful yet balanced items as rewards to incentivize this play are all excellent decisions that have this 18-year Pokémon vet very excited.
Beyond the Raids, many of these other updates feel like icing on the cake in contrast to so many of Niantic’s updates in the past which have felt questionable at best and regressive at worst. Receiving notifications when your Pokémon are defeated and removed from a Gym instead of just finding them KO’d on your list is a nice quality change. The search feature is an obvious and welcome feature. And adding a bit of clarity to Pokéstops and whether you’ve visited them or not is a nice addition.
I’ve said for a long time that I’ve wanted Pokémon GO to be a good game. I’m hoping that Niantic has hit their stride and is on the way to making this a game I can be excited to play instead of just… weirdly clingy to. (please validate me Niantic, I don’t know why I’ve been playing so long).