As with last year’s Kanto tour, early reports of Pokemon Go’s recent Johto Tour talk a lot about low shiny rates, players feeling overwhelmed, the event feeling too packed for just one day, special quest fail rates, and expectations not being met. While plenty of gamers certainly did enjoy it, my impression is that people have been more open with their criticisms the second year, and sadly that now means two straight years of the same problems. It’s now clear to me that Niantic did not learn from the Kanto event and somehow made things worst.
That being said, it’s not as if the event was a complete failure. In fact, there was a lot I personally enjoyed. There were some interesting things introduced for sure, and the returning players I played with (only two of whom paid for a ticket, one of whom mostly stayed home) genuinely had a good time. For the price of admission, I certainly got my money’s worth.
But the problem is that it also came with unnecessarily high levels of confusion and frustration that, had it not been for tons of planning and watching other regions’ experiences, might have completely overwhelmed me.
So let’s talk about what worked during the Johto Tour and what didn’t.
Who let the beasts out?
Let’s start with the good stuff. That is, I’m going to bring up things that many in my group enjoyed, and why we enjoyed them but also critique how they did or didn’t fit into the overall mood of the Johto tour, as I think the group I was with was quite good as isolating features and enjoying them for what they were, rather than simply focusing on the combination of all of the elements forcibly combined.
For starters, without a doubt, legendary pokemon in the wild were absolutely a thrill. I don’t talk to a large chunk of my old community, but when there were three different legendaries standing within a single block, I had to contact a few old friends, one of whom swooped through and dropped off a few lures. Even though none of us caught one that time, Niantic’s quest that rewarded an encounter certainly took the sting out it, at least for those of us who remembered to do it.
See, much like last year, this year’s Johto Tour was made up of far too many quests, some of which were poorly explained or prioritized (the evolution quest, which relied on the time of day for two pokemon, was near the bottom). Everyone I played with did a double-take at just how long the list was for ticket holders, and that’s completely ignoring the special research they also had to do. To note, while the beasts had a very high flee rate, there was a quest to take a picture of each of the three beasts that rewarded a catch encounter with them. If no one had warned my group about needing to take pictures of the legendary beasts before they ran, the frustration of learning about the loss of encounter rewards would have undercut the experience.
A smaller but related issue is that putting legendary pokemon in the wild while also asking players to do a million other tasks means people rely more on auto-catchers like the Go+ device, causing people to miss out. Yes, we did have to look hard at the map to find raids and tiny pokestops that might have been needed for the gym leader quest, but combined with needing to evolve, battle, do storage maintenance, and so on, we couldn’t even designate someone to watch out for legendaries due to the huge list of personal quests, all of which was made worse by the fact that this was an incense event with slow load times on most of our devices.
It also caused people to lose some area awareness, including myself. Maybe restricting this to parks could have helped, but I also know parks can be a real hit and miss, so I understand keeping the legendary beasts spawn locations open. However, this is also why an event like this in the future should be a standalone event: so that people can focus less on trying to battle/evolve/raid/search through collections while walking and auto-catching and focus on, you know, searching for legendary pokemon in the wild.
Return of the regionals and shiny vengeance
So this is kind of a twofer. Yes, the legendary shinies are always popular, but sometimes hardcores in particular can forget that some people just want to collect neat-looking pokemon. I know lots of people who wanted Heracross, but Corsola seemed at least just as popular, especially people who normally aren’t shiny hunters but wanted the shiny coral.
However, the odds were quite low. Worse, if you were a ticket holder, your quests asked you to spend the majority of your passes on stuff you probably didn’t care about, much like last year. This meant free-to-play players had less support, but they also had fewer people able to send them invites. I literally changed a pokemon’s name to “HeracrossPlz” and only received two raid invites for it on an active list of about 120 people. Most of the invites were to Lugia raids, which I’ll get to later.
Most of us understand that especially in raids, the chance to get a shiny is low. However, the overall event seemed to push shinies once again, only to deliver very few of them. Only two of us in my group of five paid for tickets, but we ended up with less than one shiny per hour played. I received multiple repeats myself, and others only caught old Community Day shinies. Like people around social media, my group felt disappointed to say the least. I was mostly looking for previously released shinies of meta-irrelevant pokemon myself, so the bar was pretty low and still unmet, which increased my disappointment in this area of the event.
Shiny searches and fun raids can go together. Heck, that’s basically Community Day. But also tossing in a laundry list of pokemon to catch, evolve, and hard-to-find trainers to battle takes the fun out things and threatens the joy of just relaxing and looking for the pokemon that actually make you happy.
Bringing the old gang back together
While the regionals are cool, a lot of people like legendaries. This event even advertised increased chances to get certain legendaries as a shiny. The newest player in our group, who quit before the first raids showed up in 2017, really liked that she could finally get her hands on some of these pokemon – that’s where she noted the value of the event. That being said, it was tough to focus on that when there was just so much else going on, as I hope readers are starting to see. In fact, she was able to play for only half the event, gave up on several quests, and focused on just using her raid passes up until the exact minute the event ended.
Unlike the regular shiny hunting or hunting for raid pokemon that are soloable, legendaries can take a bit of coordination. High-defense pokemon like Lugia can’t be brainlessly tackled with a couple of random players, and low-value legendaries can be hard to find people for. If I hadn’t had a quest, I wouldn’t have touched most of the legendaries myself. In fact, I felt kind of bad not joining people for low-quality legendaries when I got remote invites, particularly because, once again, Niantic is stingier with remote passes that keep people safe and distanced.
Like everything else I’ve mentioned, the legendaries themselves can be fun, especially for new players. But when I have to choose between doing a laundry list of legendaries I may not actually want or searching for my beloved blue cow, I’m gonna really resent that laundry list.
Too many chores
Wild legendary pokemon, regional raids, shiny hunting, and bringing back old legendaries are all fun features, cramming those all into one day is a lot to handle. Theoretically, I can see Niantic thinking you can just through all that together, drop in some sweet fashion gear, and call it a day, and yes, people will pay for it.
However, they’ll also remember how they felt. Most of my friends who paid for tickets last year did not pay for them this year. Partially it’s because Niantic didn’t sell the event well with the announcements. In fact, exciting things like the wild-spawning legendaries and cool clothing didn’t come in until close to the actual event release.
What people did remember was a long list of pokemon they didn’t care about needing to be caught, fighting NPC trainers they wanted to avoid, and rushing to evolve pokemon they frankly didn’t care about. All of these features feel more natural in a week-long event where you can whittle down the work at your own pace while mostly focusing on what’s fun, but having these crammed into the same event where you have several other desirable activities is just way, way too much.
When certain people talk fondly about the Kanto event, what they forget is that Niantic messed up badly enough that the regional pokemon stayed around for another week, but essentially they were accessible only to people who were in global communities and used Remote Raid Passes. That alone should be a reminder to Niantic that a single, 12-hour quest that pulls players in every different direction needs to be dolled out over a longer period of time.
For example, about half-way through the main questline for the Johto Tour, players were asked to earn three hearts with their buddy pokemon. Both my groupmate and I had filled our buddies up for the day far before this point, causing at least myself to waste multiple poffins (premium items) in order to progress. Other people, especially rurals, noted that the later “Complete X amount of Research Tasks” suddenly required them to drive to a new location (like out of town for some) to progress, as they’d already finished what was physically available to them. Had Niantic not included related quests that ask that players finish their quests ASAP, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but it was.
Without a doubt, Niantic can do fun events. Heck, it actually introduced a new, fun mechanic at what seemed like the last moment (as the earlier mentioned Lugia and Ho-oh from incense was either poorly worded at release or wholly reworked). The problem is throwing too many unrelated tasks at players at the same time. How can you focus on battling when you also need to be watching for legendaries? How can you get in some good exercise when you need to stand around for raids? How much can you help your friends when you can’t even see the NPC they need to fight? Future “tour” events need to be less of a tour and more of a leisurely vacation: long, luxurious, and filled with options, not a required checklist of tasks to complete.