Niantic and Pokémon GO! just announced the release of a large Pokémon update, including the addition of 80 new Pokémon from Generation II (Gold/Silver/Crystal). This wave is in addition to a slew of new changes, including new berries, new encounter behavior, and new avatar customization. A lot of Pokéhunters are notably excited, but it also brings up a concern: are they catering to the “hardcore” players too much at the expense of their vast base of casual players?
Pokémon GO! is not your standard video or computer game, and I doubt much of its audience are “gamers” of the sort that you’d see in eSports or MMOs. While there is some number-crunching, theory-crafting, and hurry to “win”, the majority probably play just to have some casual fun while out and about. Thus, the announcement that they’re already moving past the original 151 Pokémon into the next hundred is a bit disconcerting.
Even the Pokémon video games didn’t move this fast, allowing players the time to “catch ‘em all.” There were three years before trainers switched from Red/Blue to Gold/Silver, and each subsequent generation has been about the same. Why the need to rush Pokémon GO! players a little over seven months after the game has come out? Wouldn’t you think they’d milk the original 151 (not of all of whom have even been released) for at least a year?
Don’t get me wrong; I understand the need to stay relevant. In the world of apps, if you don’t stay fresh and fun, you’ll lose your customer base to the latest clone of what you started. I just don’t think pushing the app past when the majority of said players are done the best way to do it. It’s like watching a television show moving past its source material; you could have used all sorts of other filler rather than rush everyone.
Whatever happened to trading? Battling other trainers? Why not more special events to catch those rarer Pokémon? Halloween and Valentine’s Day were ideal for those who never saw Ghost-types or struggled to find Clefairies, Jigglypuffs, and Chanseys. Why not a huge event to catch the Legendary Birds, or even Mew and MewTwo? All of these could have filled the time until Wave 2 was released in July, while your average, casual player still only has 75% of their Pokédex filled.
I’m not saying the update isn’t great. I’m excited for the new Pokémon, plus all the other changes. Some of these updates are great things that will hopefully keep the game fresh. I’m suggesting we didn’t need to jump from Kanto to Johto (link to examples of each of these) before we were even done exploring the original. Even the TV series didn’t move that fast.
Niantic’s announcement for the latest wave of Pokémon is bitter-sweet. It’s exciting to see the game changing and bringing in lots of new things, but to your average Pokéhunter, it may be a little too much too soon. Let’s hope this doesn’t drive your casual app gamer toward slower-paced games. Also, Niantic needs to make sure there’s a way to catch all the Pokémon players may have missed during the first seven months.
Otherwise, this will turn into, “Gotta catch whatever you can before it’s gone.”