Niantic’s recent Pokemon Go event succeeded where the Pokemon Company failed, with POGO players catching over 3 billion Pokemon well before the end of the event. I felt pride for my community and had begun thinking that despite the other event being for an enhanced version of a proper Pokemon game released last year, maybe Niantic was starting to better understand its audience.
Maybe that’s still true. However, it may also be that its game developers’ goals don’t align with players’. Just last week, POGO players were told that big changes had hit the game without the need for a client-side update. Our rewards were sweeter, cherished ‘mon returned to the raid boss list, and best of all, the exclusive, automated, invite-only EX Raids granting the only current way to obtain the strongest Pokemon, Mewtwo, would be granted to players who raid frequently and had ground-out reputation. This would replace the seemingly random system we’d been dealing with since the release of EX raids.
Apparently, though, the EX Raid changes either aren’t live or Niantic’s statements about how they would work were inaccurate.
Shortly after the announcement, a wave of EX raid invites went out. Players immediately felt that the invitation system had not in fact changed. There’d been a suspicion that Niantic had been using EX raids to lure back inactive players rather than to reward players who played frequently. Since (usually) doing more than one raid a day requires premium currency, the situation could conceivably exacerbate the current into a pay-to-win scenario, though not granting passes to players who are very active also seems, well, backwards.
The new system was supposedly going to take into account badge rank (POGO’s reputation system) and raiding frequency. That is, if you fought at a location often and helped your team there to build rep, plus raided there often, you’d be invited to an EX raid there if invitations (generated according to the game’s opaque algorithm) went out. Especially with the new system prioritizing parks and sponsored locations, it sounded like a reasonable change. Not perfect, but a step in the right direction.
However, new invitations went out December 1, and it appears that the problem once again repeated itself. The Silph Road has noted that “anecdotal reports are showing that Niantic may be reserving a portion of the EX raid invite pool for newer or more casual players – possibly as an attempt to bring more folks back to/into the game.”
What’s the real pattern? The Silph Road put together a survey to find out, and the findings seem to indicate that some of what Niantic said is true while also confirming some of the anecdotal evidence. A large portion of the invitations seem to be going out to people over level 28 who haven’t received a pass before, which means the system is trying to ensure that at least semi-active players get a chance to do at least one EX Raid. That being said, level 30 for PoGO in Vanilla World of Warcraft terms would be mount-access level. This is a low entrance level for high level content.
Only about 30% of players invited are raiding once a day or more. People with max reputation at the gym they were invited to only make up about 12% of the data. Remember, the new system is trying to prioritize parks, sponsored locations, and (from the Silph data) university campuses, so these areas should be fairly easy to grind reputation at for active players. One would think that a meta-focused community like The Silph Road would lean towards the hardcore crowd, so seeing people with high reputation being such a minority seems troubling.
In fact, the site managers suggest that players achieve a “silver” rank at gym locations, not gold, as almost 45% of those invited were at that rank. Bronze may be the minority rank at about 42%, but it means that over a third of the people invited to EX raids have only raided at that location once.
This means that gyms hosting the event may not be as “local” as players had hoped, and that lack of EX raid experience may get you priority over being an active, daily raider in your community. I actually live near a few parks with active scenes and none of them have hosted EX raids. It’s nice that Niantic is trying to account for newer players and those who have never seen an EX raid before, but weighing what seems like a large portion of the invitation pool towards less experienced/active players without mentioning this to the community breeds distrust, even if the inclusivity is for the best of the community.