I’d like to think that I’m kind of a healthy gamer. While MMOs take a lot of time, the nice thing is that their downtime can lead to forming bonds, or give you time to exercise. Augmented reality games can give you both at once, especially Pokemon Go, since it’s the best-known ARG we have (and the mountains of merchandise make it easier to stand out as a fellow player).
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and I’m not just talking about game mechanics that have plagued Niantic games since at Ingress. I remember playing that title and thinking, “Man, this game is dangerous! There’s no way they’ll just clone this for POGO, right?” And yet, here we are. But I can’t put all the blame on Niantic, especially after my time with ARG competitor Maguss. Some things just seem inherent to the genre.
In all my years working for Massively and Massively OP, we’ve never had enough Earth Day events for a proper roundup. That isn’t changing this year either. But there are a few here and there worth pointing out, and one of those is Pokemon Go’s.
In spite of all the stories about how POGO players are wrecking up cities and parks and nature preserves in their quest to catch ’em all, the MMOARG is almost uniquely positioned to be a force for good for the planet, given that Niantic can point millions of people at a thing and grant them digital candy for doing whatever. This year, that “whatever” is going to be cleaning up. Literally.
“Niantic, Inc. and Playmob are teaming up to host the first ever Pokémon GO Earth Day Clean Up on April 22. The Pokémon GO Earth Day Clean Up initiative is a series of events that will take place across locations around the world, inviting the Pokémon GO community to join together to clean up the environment and their local areas. Trainers will also have an opportunity to donate to the Mission Blue Foundation, a global coalition united to inspire public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas.”
Remember when Pokemon Go had a big live festival for player in Chicago? Considering how quickly the event devolved into a nightmare, Niantic is probably hoping you don’t remember it. The studio had already announced it would refund the ticket prices for attendees, but in wake of a class action suit to recover other costs related to the event, the developer is ultimately paying out over $1.5 million to all those who attended the event.
A website for the settlement will be set up no later than May 25th according to court documents, with claimants needing to have checked in to the location via the app and provide receipts for claims over $107. Any leftover money is going to charity, not back to Niantic. It’s a pretty big figure and a notable piece of compensation for the disastrous event; whether or not it soothes lingering hurt feelings remains to be seen.
A while back, you may recall that I posted some of my conversations with anthropomorphized concepts of MMO studios. If you don’t remember this, you will not be eligible for this year’s Remembering Championship, but considering the fact that said championship is mostly determined by who remembers to show up, odds of that were always low. It’s a memory championship, after all. You can’t judge that like, say, curling.
What were we talking about? Oh, right, MMO studios. Despite that single column, I have continued to have other conversations with various studios, most of which have gone about as well as the first batch. So if you’ve long awaited to know more about the concepts I speak with, your wishes have come true.
If you wish to know about my conversations with my neighbor, I cannot help you.
Around the time I started working at Massively-that-was, there was an article that I quite liked talking about how four high-profile MMO failures were not necessary. It was a product of its time, but the point was made that these games didn’t have to wind up in the state they were in. The mistakes that were made were not unexpected problems, but entirely predictable ones that anyone could have seen. Heck, some people did see them and pointed them out, but nothing was changed.
I think about that a lot when I think about other MMOs and online games because there are a lot of titles that, even if not entirely failed, are in states they never needed to be in. These stories are, at the very least, stories of some failures where the failure was not an inevitable end state, nor are they messes that had to be made. The writing was on the wall, the warnings were given, and someone just kept on keeping on and ignored all of the signs. And here we are.
I have to admit that Pokemon Go‘s really been on a roll lately with the rapidly rolled out events. Despite some bugs during the last community day, the event was pretty enjoyable, much like the first one. We’re seeing more lore being at least acknowledged beyond small easter eggs, even if we’re sadly still swimming in Pikachu hats.
And while POGO is celebrating Pokemon’s 22nd anniversary (“Pokemon Day“) with party-hat Pikachu again, at least it’s bringing three times its normal stardust value, as well as Present, a move we also got on Santa-hat Pikachu at Christmas. At least the new cash shop clothes inspired by the game’s remake are adding some visual differences to the game.
We’ve got more to look forward to next month, though. The game’s next community day is featuring Bulbasaur, the mascot from Pokemon Green, as Japan originally released Blue as a third option post-launch.
Pokemon Go players are beginning to see the introduction of Poke-lore to the MMOARG. While the last big update brought weather to the game in a unique way, people noted that it didn’t seem quite enough since the Generation 3 mascots are thematically oriented more than weather-based, but still fighting each other: Kyogre, the whale of floods, battling with Groudon, the land loving drought bringer, with air-poppa Rayquaza trying to get them to settle down.
So what is Niantic doing to reinforce this? A kind of raid-boss battle. From now till March 5th, Niantic has brought back both Groudon and Kyogre during the current Rayquaza craze. It’s the first time Niantic’s brought back retired legendaries for a non-regional event, which is highly significant as both are arguably more powerful than EX Raid exclusive Mewtwo and will remain some of the most powerful Pokemon when POGO implements all the current generations.
There’s more, though, and lapsed players should really take note!
Hey trainers! Legendary pokemon Rayquaza joins the raid fun “for a limited time” in Pokemon Go beginning today through March 16th.
“In celebration, Pokémon originally discovered in the Hoenn region will take over wild encounters until February 13. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to catch powerful Pokémon such as Salamence, Altaria, Metagross, and more! […] You’ll also have a chance to battle the Legendary Water-type Pokémon Kyogre before it swims away on February 14.”
Players across Europe should hit the mall, as all 58 Unibail-Rodamco POGO shopping center locations will activate lure modules at the pokestops during daylight hours in February, with an extra community day on the 24th. This is real life.
Pokemon Go summoned all controversies at once this week with the announcement of new buyable avatar items that are essentially locked to achievements. Redditors are grumpy about gender-specific outfits, no color options, money-grabs, achievement locking, the quality of the clothes – even the fact that they’re summer outfits, even though the northern hemisphere is in the middle of winter.
In POGO studio news, Niantic bought up augmented reality studio Escher Reality this week, bringing the CEO and CTO on board and saying that the acquisition “significantly accelerates [its] work on persistent, shared AR as part of the Niantic real-world application platform.”
Finally, Niantic put out a POGO-themed “nature documentary” narrated by none other than comedian and activist Stephen Fry; it introduces the game’s third wave of new ‘mon, including Plusle, Minun, Maqile, Masquerain, Luvdisc, Sharpedo, Mudkip, Snorunt, and Delcatty. That’s down below.
You are not getting access to all of the Hoenn-region pokemon added to Pokemon Go with the game’s newest update. That’s the bad news. But that update does add another 23 critters from the region, so you have a wider selection of monsters to include in your lineups! (That’s Groudon slinking off in the background, but we don’t know why he’s pouting about showing up. Maybe he’s shy.)
Not enough promise to make you excited about the game? Well, the pot is sweetened somewhat by ensuring that even just grabbing some eggs is enough to unlock some Generation III pokeymans. For a limited (and undisclosed) time period, every egg you hatch will contain a pokemon from the Hoenn region. So get catching and get hatching. The tagline, you see, is that you have to catch them all. That’s a lot to catch.
Still playing Pokemon Go? Wish you were, but couldn’t find a group to raid with? Or maybe you are in a group but want to fill out the roster a bit more? Good news! Niantic will begin doing monthly community events for the game starting January 20th. The plan is for Niantic to host a monthly event “starring a special Pokémon, which will appear frequently around the world for just a few hours.”
While that sounds like a good way to distribute regionals more, the kicker is that the Pokemon caught during the monthly event also will have an exclusive move. Naturally, the first Pokemon is Surfing Pikachu, but before you wander off to join the rest of us waiting for Squirtle Squad Squirtle, you should know that other bonuses will also be in play, such as increased XP or Stardust, plus Lure Modules activated during the event will last for three hours. It’s probably not going to help build communities as well as in-app social media communication option, but it’s a start.
The timing’s quite nice, as Niantic recently released a new Legendary whale, Kyogre, who (like Groudon) has Mewtwo-esque stats for those of you still pining away for EX Raid passes, but has been difficult for many trainers to catch.
Mobile users are probably used to the eventual demise of their phones and the nonfunctionality of apps they bought long ago, no matter which manufacturer or operating system is behind their daily driver. Obsolesence is a way of life. But that reality won’t be of any comfort to Pokemon Go players on older iPhones, who’ve been told this week that their time has come.
“In an upcoming update to Pokémon GO, we will end support for Apple devices not capable of upgrading to iOS 11, such as iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c models,” Niantic announced. “This change is a result of improvements to Pokémon GO that push the application beyond the capabilities of the operating systems on such devices.”
So in a nutshell, come the end of February, you’re going to need a newer phone than one from 2012/2013 to play POGO, else everything you’ve paid for in the game will begin collecting dust and you will be playing other games. It’s not currently clear which other devices are destined for the chopping block in the near future, but it does appear that Niantic’s plan is to drop you rather than create a low-load version of the app to keep dedicated customers on older devices, just as it was Niantic’s plan to block all rooted/jailbroken devices rather than sort out actual cheaters.
One of the frustrating bits about our end-of-the-year content rollouts is that sometimes predictions and story roundups can come across as negative. It’s way too easy to assume that if someone is predicting game X will flop, she wants it to happen and is gleefully steepling her fingers and cackling madly over its future demise. Which is just not so! I never steeple my fingers.
But all the same, for tonight’s Massively Overthinking, we’d like to take a moment to set aside our fears and expectations and just talk about our hopes and wishes for 2018 in an MMORPG context. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams.