Niantic just announced Pokemon Go Beyond, the game’s biggest content update ever

    
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Niantic just announced Pokemon Go Beyond, the game’s biggest content update ever

Pokemon GO has already had an overwhelming number of events since late September, with both hits and some misses, but Niantic’s looking to close out 2020 with a bang with Go Beyond, the game’s next update. We attended the press reveal of Go Beyond, and while it was exclusively about the new update and not longstanding issues, I feel that even the unanswered questions are fairly telling. Unsurprisingly, though, Go Beyond is all about raising that level 40 cap up to 50 when it starts its rollout at the end of November – and there’s plenty to do in the meantime.

Let’s dig in to everything you can expect from the new content.

Litten let loose: Leveling details

Level 40 Australian players: You may get access as soon as tomorrow for testing. Raising pokemon beyond the current cap will prevent them from entering Master League PvP, and you’ll get to fill out a survey if you hit 41 so that Niantic can work on retuning. Arceus’ Speed, Aussies.
I’m going to be upfront: A lot of the general reveal was practically already out in the wild. We knew during Go Fest that the cap would be increased, but dataminers had seen hints of this as early as April of this year. In addition, Ingress players had long warned that raising the level cap in POGO would likely be about much more than XP. What this means is that people plugged into the community probably aren’t going to be terribly surprised by the news, but getting some specifics should help you with planning for the November 30th level cap increase to 50.

So first, the good news: All current XP players have after level 40 will carry over and be applied toward your new levels. Current medals earned will apply to level-up conditions, but medals will also have platinum versions too. However, not everything will carry over.

The new levels largely seem to be like mega-research tasks. While we were told that the goal was to make levels 41+ more about skill than grinding, I mostly saw grinding. Things like catch 200 pokemon in a single day, evolve one of each eevee, win 30 Master League matches, or level up a legendary pokemon several times. These requirements are also not retroactive and will require you to do them again. There was even a mention of doing a raid with unique pokemon as a requirement, so you may need to be ready to spread the poke-love to less optimal ‘mons if you’ve just focused on the statistically best battlers.

Now, the specific numbers I saw may change. We were given a written preview for the leveling tasks after our session, so take a look (emphasis mine):

Level 41: Submit your catching skills to a test of endurance! You’ll be expected to catch a high number of Pokémon in a single day, along with other tasks, in order to reach level 41.

Level 42: From evolving Eevee into each of its available Evolutions, to using certain Evolution items on specific Pokémon, reaching level 42 will test your knowledge of Pokémon Evolutions.

Level 43: Show us your mastery of Gym battles and Raid Battles! You’ll also need to have earned a certain number of Platinum medals before you can advance to level 43. You might find yourself with a surprise avatar item at the end, too!

Level 44: Battling other Trainers has been a fundamental aspect of the Pokémon RPGs since the beginning, but it’s still relatively new to Pokémon GO. Have you been developing your skills in battle? You’ll have to if you want to reach level 44!

Level 45: You’ve battled in Gyms, raids, and the GO Battle League, but to reach level 45 you’ll need to focus your efforts on taking down those pesky Team GO Rocket villains! You might find yourself with a surprise avatar item at the end, too!

Level 46: Get ready to explore, intrepid Trainers! To reach level 46, you’ll need to complete a number of Field Research tasks, hatch a certain number of Eggs, and document your daily adventures using GO Snapshot!

Level 47: You may think you’ve mastered the art of battling in raids, but the requirements to reach level 47 will really test your mettle! For example, one challenge will require you to win raids with teams that meet certain qualifications—and that’s just the beginning!

Level 48: The requirements to reach level 48 are focused on one of the most important things in all of Pokémon GO: your friendship with your Buddy Pokémon! From kilometers walked to the number of Souvenirs you’ve collected, reaching level 48 will require you and your buddy to be laser-focused on developing your friendship with one another. You might find yourself with a surprise avatar item at the end, too!

Level 49: If there’s one thing that matches the importance of your friendship with your Buddy Pokémon, it’s your friendships with other Trainers. The people we meet on our Pokémon journeys bring so much to our lives, and cultivating those friendships is key to becoming an amazing Pokémon Trainer. Reach level 49 by sending Gifts, acquiring Lucky Pokémon through trades, and more.

Level 50: This is it! The home stretch! To reach the highest available level in Pokémon GO, you must master all aspects of the game. Some examples include making Excellent Throws, catching Legendary Pokémon, and defeating Team GO Rocket Leaders with Pokémon under 1,500 CP, so you can tell this will be the ultimate test of whether you’re ready to stand among the most accomplished Trainers in Pokémon GO. And, of course, you might also find yourself with a surprise avatar item at the end!

Admittedly, I’m slightly relieved about what I see. Yes, there are probably going to be tasks that are easier to get through with monetized items like raid passes, but Pokemon GO does help make levels flatter than many other games. No, I’m more relieved that certain “skill” based tasks we get from basic research weren’t revealed or emphasized. Update: We’ve got some previews for the first few levels now.

For example, research tasks like “3 excellent throws in a row” often get ruined by things like needing to catch a pokemon that has an incredibly challenging throw, your phone glitching and causing you to drop a ball, etc. Nothing I saw or heard sounded like that, which I know will be a relief to many people in my personal POGO communities. Most of what I saw was fair, especially in light of the most recent PvP changes and cup variety, even with challenges such as the recent Little Cup. I’m actually already generating a few ideas for the level 50 Rocket challenge. Sableye, I (might) choose you!

Leveling up pokemon will be a bit different too. Again, dataminers beat Niantic to the reveal: XL candy is needed instead of normal candy for your pokemon to go beyond the level 40 cap. The numbers are still being played with, but you’ll be able to convert regular pokemon candy into XL versions of candy for that pokemon, as well as earning some from catching. We also saw XL Rare Candy (the universally accepted currency across all Pokemon) but didn’t hear much about that. Yes, stardust will still be required as part of leveling pokemon up, and there’s no specific plans to increase the amount we receive, so I hope you’ve been stocking up! Update: You can actually raise your pokemon to level 50 at trainer level 40, if you have the candy/dust for it.

For people who aren’t 40 yet, including some of my fellow MOP staffers, don’t worry. While the XP required to level up isn’t changing, Niantic has already been testing additional xp rewards, making it easier to reach the current cap. The plan is to have these changes finalized by November 30th. In addition, there will be a new double catch XP bonus event starting November 18th at 4 p.m. EST.

This event, dubbed 12 Days of Friendship, isn’t just about catch bonus XP. Friendship levels will increase faster when opening Gifts, trading Pokémon, or battling together in raids, Gyms, or Trainer Battles (PvP). You’ll also receive an attack boost when you battle in raids with friends, so raiding should be a bit easier. That’s good since you’ll get more XP from completing raids. Plus, you can open more Gifts each day. Remember, Best Friend status gives you 100,000 XP, so maybe get a Lucky Egg ready and coordinate that with your friend before opening the gift to hit that last reputation rank to help boost your friendship and levels at the same time. More tips from AC_Faraway on Silph Road for leveling tips.

If raising the level cap doesn’t motivate you, maybe swag will. Those who are level 40 before December 31st will receive some exclusives, such as an exclusive timed research quest that rewards a Gyrados hat and unique medal. And if not, don’t worry. Starting December 2nd, we’re told there should be around 15 or 20 new Gen 6 pokemon at release, such as “Chespin, Fennekin, Pyroar, Froakie, Fletchling, and more.” In addition, a special Celebration Event will run from December 2nd, 10:00 a.m. to Tuesday December 8th, 2020, at 10:00 p.m. local time, with a “Mysterious Raid Egg” appearing with a “special” pokemon. It will be a 1-star raid, so anyone and everyone can participate.

Bringing back seasons

Of all the reveals we got, Seasons were the biggest. Partially, this is because it was a Gen 5 mechanic. As much of Generation 6’s additions have been released already (Dark and Fairy types, player customization and clothing, and Mega Evolutions), I thought Niantic might introduce something the remakes did, like Secret Bases, especially given the fact that we were told COVID really changed the things Niantic was going to release this year. That doesn’t seem to be the case, but it does make some sense, which I’ll get to later.

Seasons, as you may guess, will be three-month-long themes, and no, they don’t boost spawn CPs like weather does. They each have themes, and not just weather. The first season is known as “The Season of Celebration,” and it begins December 1st at 8:00 a.m. local time. This will kick off a series of in-game events where Professor Willow will have you research pokemon from all the various pokemon regions. It sounds a bit like a catch-up event for new and lapsed players, but I’m hoping it also will mean some rare pokemon will be a bit less rare for a bit. We’ll have to wait for more details.

The Season feature isn’t just about PvE, though; it is also tied to the PvP system. The general Great-Ultra-Master (which will still be unrestricted) rotation will be in there, along with some fun cups to mix things up, but will be cycled through twice before the season ends and rewards are given. Product Manager Alex Moffit assured us that the longer season and new rank ladders mean that there’s room for additional Elite TMs for those worried about receiving less of them, but nothing is finalized.

Yes, while the new 24-rank system was something previously revealed, Moffit did add some details. As he noted, the 10-rank system had many people landing at rank 7 and hitting a wall. Adding additional ranks and making it so that you don’t de-rank as quickly should (and in my experience, did) increase player motivation to keep going, as well as the potential for more rewards. The team will also have more “prestige” ranks for PvP: Ace, Veteran, Expert, and Legend, corresponding to ranks 21-24. Higher ranks will once again mean rank can be lost, but that is thankfully just for reaching the higher tiers.

But seasons aren’t just about PvP. They almost sound like a new kind of migration system. Outside of events, seasons will dictate Pokemon spawns and egg pools. For example, in one season, you may see many rattata, but it may become rare the next season and be replaced by sentret. Season also correspond to your hemisphere.

On the one hand, this gives me hope that I’ll have more opportunities to catch ice-type pokemon in the wild, as being a California resident means I don’t get much snow without going up a huge mountain. On the other, however, I worry about how weather will affect this. I asked whether the season system might suppress weather results, such as a freak snow-storm (weather feature) might not result in many ice types due to it being summer (season feature).

Sadly, no developer could give a clear answer on this, which is frustrating because my area has had a few hail storms in both spring and summer, and neither time did we get Snowy triggered as part of the in-game weather. Worrying about the season feature further suppressing this is a bit disappointing, but if on-average we see a larger variety of pokemon, I’m OK with this.

It’s not just about spawns, though. Each season will have featured Mega Pokemon who will receive a boost (additional CP) during its season, similar to the Mega Beedrill event that worried me. Part of that event was an unintentional bug (pun not intended this time). The general idea does seem like a good way to not only help lower level players enjoy Megas more, but possibly a way to make less useful Megas more useful. That could be really good, not just for the health of the game but for the spirit, as Mega Pokemon in the Main Game Series also had abilities that helped make previously less powerful pokemon not just statistically stronger but unique enough to warrant a second look. As POGO lacks abilities, the CP boost during seasons could spiritually help with this, occasionally making less stellar like Mega Beedrill more useful for a while. It’s hard to say without Niantic giving us more specifics, but it’s something to watch out for.

That being said, mega evolution isn’t totally solved. Seasons will also have Mega Raid pokemon rotating, but that was one thing players worried about, further solidifying Niantic’s position to dig into things players specifically said they aren’t interested in. I do have to say, though, Mega Evolution was one of many things Niantic openly said it wouldn’t be commenting on, and that may be important.

Things left unsaid

Niantic said that this will be their biggest content update, and frankly, I was largely underwhelmed by the presentation. Seasons aside, it was predictable and largely things that had previously been officially or unofficially released. The follow-up information we received – the level themes, events, and promises of more quality-of-life tweaks – makes the things that Niantic didn’t say seem far more meaningful.

See, Niantic did offer to field questions largely based on the underwhelming presentation we saw. My question about revealing egg odds/pools, especially after the Deino kerfuffle, went unmentioned, as did a follow-up question on when we might expect to get more pokemon storage, which I expected. However, there were other good questions Niantic’s reps noted, often similar to ones I had.

  • For example, Seasons seemed like another good opportunity for Niantic to do something about regional exclusives (Pokemon that literally only spawn in specific real-world locations that require international travel). When asked about this, Niantic recognized the question but said it’s not talking about them “yet.”
  • For remote raids, designer Philip La noted a question concerning the limited time people have to set up and prepare for Remote Raids. When asked whether it might be possible to give an option to add more time or something similar, he said Niantic had “nothing to share.”
  • And speaking of remote, a question on extending distance trades came up. We were told that the recent event was a “technical test” to see if Niantic could get them done, but the company isn’t ready to talk about exploring further distances.*

Again, these comments could be nothing. But I think it’s telling that a clearly problematic feature, like disclosing odds on something that could be considered gambling, was completely ignored, while COVID and update-related features at least got developer recognition. If the latter wasn’t something Niantic wanted to tease, it could have easily swept those questions under the rug too.

*Updated: 

This is why we don’t just report on what’s said but give the context. Reports are that it’s about 50km (~30 miles) distance now.

Based only on what I saw in the live presentation itself, I wasn’t personally overly thrilled about the Go Beyond update. Generation 3’s update is still the PoGOLD standard, and the recent COVID changes did things that the game has needed in terms of general safety and accessibility. It’s why, despite my criticisms, Pokemon GO is still the mobile game I feel I can most easily recommend.

The post-panel documents, however, caused the news side of this article to double in length, and I wish the studio had gone into more detail on everything in person because it’s much more impressive fleshed-out. Leveling for me is like a band-aid to be ripped off, but a couple of the requirements could be fun, especially if the hints I detected throughout the presentation materialize into something solid.

In fact, on a follow-up fact sheet, we were told to look forward to “a new global event experience” at the end of the first Season. Apparently, “updates to encountering and catching Pokémon, Adventure Sync, Buddy Adventure, FieldResearch, Gifts, and more are also part of the GO Beyond update,” but none of this was discussed during the press event. I hesitate to hype anything, but with all the play-from-home work Niantic’s done, along with these upcoming changes, right now really might be the best time to jump back into Pokemon GO, especially if you enjoy the Switch games as well.

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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