Massively on the Go: Here’s how Niantic is trying to fix Pokemon Go’s Mega Evolutions


A bit before Niantic’s wellness week kicks in for employees, Pokemon Go players got an update on the Mega Evolution problem/solution. We’ve previously covered the Mega Evolution, noting that the feature’s release was less than well-received. However, Niantic’s already made a few changes and proposed some interesting new ones.

Right now, Mega Raids are awarding 50-90 energy based on how fast a raid group can take down a Pokemon, up from 30-50 energy. That means for most pokemon, there’s the possibility that you can Mega evolve after four raids.

But this doesn’t address the fact that players can keep a Legendary Pokemon after a single raid while Megas require a constant resource to re-unlock, which is a choice players are asked to make as Mega Energy still primarily comes from Mega Raids, which use the same access keys (raid passes) as Legendary pokemon. Still, it’s a start.

Costs for subsequent Mega Evolutions have gone down 20%, so once you’ve spent 200 energy on using Mega Blastoise, you need only 40 energy instead of 50 energy to do it again. But the current (rare) research task that awards specific, event-related Mega Energy only gives 5 Mega Energy. This is technically an improvement, but it doesn’t fix the myriad issues I’ve previously covered, such the need for each Mega form to have a raid/quest for energy access. The influx of raids/quests makes it even harder for people to find the raid/quest they actually want as it’s all random. This is especially problematic for rural players who already have not only limited options but limited playerbases to help them with. Remote passes help with this, but once again, Niantic relies on premium, consumable items to fix a basic gameplay problem only made worse by the current COVID situation.

The future is somewhat brighter. These are the changes Niantic is working on implementing:

  • Walking with your buddy to earn Mega Energy;
  • More ways to earn Mega Energy through research tasks and other gameplay; and
  • Earning bonus candy when catching Pokémon that share a type with your Mega-Evolved Pokémon (more on this below).

The first option is not bad. Walking a buddy pokemon helps you in numerous ways, such as earning additional candy and at max level giving a pokemon an additional level that can exceed the level cap (though only when it’s set to your buddy). It’s also a bit hard because walking pokemon is also the most basic way for people to candy for rare Pokemon. It’s difficult enough to choose just one Pokemon for this, but the new plan asks us to devote more time to specific pokemon (not species), which aligns well with the Pokemon series. Pokemon Go also has an achievement for having 100 “best buddy” pokemon, something that can take months. I won’t go into the heavy details, but suffice it to say that the achievement already seemed to have been made in poor taste, and this only strengthens that sentiment for players.

More ways to earn Mega Energy through research tasks feels like a mistake – period. Just as with raids, it dilutes the pool of desirable tasks, especially since players are limited to three quests at a time. However, if Niantic were to rework the quest system, maybe by allowing players to select one or more repeatable quests to work on, this could be really good.

The “other gameplay” line is vague. Part of me hopes it means Niantic might do something like minigames. The group AR mode that allows you to have multiple pokemon together for pictures (such as in the above) could be a fun starting point, though the feature is also difficult to use and not available on all phones. It’s fun to think about what Niantic could be doing, just hard to pin down right now.

Finally, the earning bonus “candy” through catching same-type pokemon while walking your Mega-buddy may be kind of neat, even if it once again is at odds with the 100 buddy achievement. I’m assuming Niantic meant “Energy” rather than candy, so I will say that I have asked for clarification on this. Assuming it is energy (since most Megas are not legendary and thus take far less effort to get candy for),* I think this could be kind of a fun way to increase bonding…

… for the initial Mega unlock.

Mega Energy as a resource tied to raids, especially with its current numbers, still feels overly monetized. As I’m someone who loved the feature in the main series, seeing these evolutions turn into a rare resource hurts because I know how people hoard resources. Unless Mega Energy costs become drastically reduced after their initial unlocking and become as easy to get as Ultra Balls, Mega Evolutions will continue to look and feel like a milking machine hooked up to the player’s wallet.

All that said, I’m glad to see Niantic making the effort. Sure, doing so mid-event and after so many people essentially paid for resources that already spent is questionable, but it’s old hat at this point. The proposed changes still don’t address problems with having specific, limited, species-specific resources for 48 more raid-only Pokemon who are a temporary addition to our collections. And it doesn’t address fears of more “junk” content players will have to wade through, the usual raiding concerns for busy/small town people, or that it’s yet another system that ties us to a specific Pokemon rather than a species when the game overall seems to be about having a large collection, for both serious gameplay and recreation. But it’s a good start.

I just hope Niantic understands that it’s just that: a start. Hopefully after everyone’s week off, the same go-get-’em attitude that helped get the game through COVID’s early days resurfaces to help tackle this in a way that restores the playerbase’s faith in the studio and the future of the game.

*Update: Niantic PR has confirmed that this is not a mistake. If the candy granted is of the captured pokemon, the feature is only really useful in uncommon and very specific situations. If the candy granted is of your buddy pokemon, it could help with candy issues related to a few specific pokemon, including regionals.

Update 2: Niantic has released a 3-pack of remote raid passes for 1 coin in the store which will expire September 30. There will be a second 1-coin, 3-pass offer on September 10 (no given expiration date yet). In order to claim both though, players should remember that passes cannot be purchased while holding 3 passes, so use one on a raid of your choosing in order to hold 5 passes total.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!

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