Massively on the Go: Pokemon Go’s Elite Raids entry event was yet another disappointment


Once again, Pokemon GO developer Niantic has proven it’s more than capable of delivering disappointment with the game’s events. The company’s infamously poor communication was the first big hint at how bad the Elite Raids entry event would go; Niantic announced the feature and the event at 3 p.m. on a Friday for an event that began Sunday but began affecting the gameworld on Saturday during the monthly Community Day. Players were initially warned to stick around after the raid for a surprise, but that was rolled back and bungled as some kind of “social experiment.”

And that’s after the fact that the initial Elite Eggs were blocking post-Community Day tier 4 raids, which appear only after a CD event for a few hours (which few people seem to really hit). The original plan was that the eggs would sit for 24 hours, giving people a full day to plan things out – in theory. Again, this was on Community Day when people are out playing for the bulk of the spawns. Between blocking the Community Day post-event raids and then rolling that back to after 6 p.m., Niantic ensured that planning for the Elite Raids was much more last minute. In fact, my larger community was still figuring things out at 1 in the morning.

Unfortunately, these problems aren’t really new.

While it’s not novel for veteran players, newer players are adapting to the fact that some events, like this one, are in-person only events. This one also featured a pokemon that is weak only to Bug (taking quad damage) and Fairy (double damage) moves. Those two types are often irrelevant in PvE, so few people, including me, were prepared for the event prior to the announcement. Gamers who had a busy week likely found themselves in the same situation. So while a few people may have normally been able to complete the raid, I heard reports of many groups failing the encounter altogether, and it wasn’t just because of the skill and investment check from the more difficult Mega Lati raids.

As usual, Niantic tried to push out a poorly planned high-end event at the last minute. And unlike the old EX Raids, Elite raids really seemed to be aimed at parks. My usual player-heavy spots were bereft of Elite Raid warnings, except for a park I often seek out for Community Day. Other parks – from big multi-diamond baseball fields to small strips of land and even a golf course fountain – had the opportunity to host.

The problem, of course, is that some of these areas are super busy on the weekends. EX Raids helped cut down on that possibility by restricting the number of attendees. Remote Raiding would have done the same. The street near a park I frequent was massively crowded because typically people raid from their cars, not in person. No new connections were made, and I didn’t even see people I know who claimed to be there, though I did see some stragglers sheepishly smiling at me from their car, hoping I could help them (due to raid lockouts upon completing a raid, I could not).

As if the fails in terms of communication, event planning, exercise, and socialization aren’t bad enough, the actual event was bugged as well. Multiple users have reported uncommon/rare pokemon appearing after the raid but immediately disappearing when clicked, which sounds a lot like the Go Fest bug that’s largely persisted since then and has not resulted in any kind of refund or makeup event.

The bad news continues: The 2 p.m. raids I completed didn’t even spawn reward pokemon, period. It’s not that they were disappearing when clicked or that they were bad; they were just a load of nothing. Other people in local towns noted similar experiences, so while it’s good to know I wasn’t just having a bad experience, it’s demotivating to hear that this was the norm.

At the final 5 p.m. raids, I was with two groups that had a new bug: The boss was defeated but didn’t die, causing time to count down until the group was forcibly failed, on two last-minute groups that had waited on others from a previous raid location who also had encountered this issue (but had more time to deal with it).

I’ve never taken a break from the game, and in all this time I can’t recall having this bug except from individual lag issues. This affected two whole groups, perhaps around $25 worth of $1 passes. A few people were able to sneak into another raid mere seconds before the raid disappeared to beat it, but the damage was done. While we did get spawns, the disappearing bug struck again, on the second Hisui Qwilfish I’d seen that day – a pokemon no longer available and previously found only in eggs.

But there were other bugs. In another nearby city, there were Discord reports of people getting kicked from raids mid-battle, pokemon unfainted and all. Someone else claimed this kicking happened to people who were out of range of the gym when their pokemon fainted. There may be more, and at this point, I have no reason not to believe all of them.

All of this is just terribly embarrassing for a company like Niantic, or at least it ought to be. If the game were new, if the content were new, if the company were new, then some of this might be understandable.

But not only is none of this new, it’s also attached to a major IP that the studio frequently throws under the bus whenever it experiences a basic community communication issue. It’s not that this was the worst POGO event. It was just severely disappointing at how it failed at nearly every conceivable level. I won’t even get into the issue of releasing such a rare pokemon in raids that are severely limited while also trying to get players to stick around and catch pokemon for 15 minutes, a repeat of Niantic’s general problem of throwing too much into an event without really thinking about how various mechanics do (or more often don’t) fit together.

Niantic took bits and pieces of things it’s done in the past, many of which players weren’t thrilled about, attached those to a rare pokemon of questionable immediate value, and… I don’t know. Didn’t test it again? Thought that maybe this time giving players almost no time to prepare would actually make us enjoy an event? Ignored the Community Manager, who I imagined was standing on a table with a bullhorn saying, “The players don’t trust us!” as the top brass essentially pushed through another rigged event a la Stufful Day?

Don’t get me wrong; I like seeing POGO players I haven’t physically met in ages, but there were very few of them due to the last-minute nature of the event, and the smiles didn’t last long without a tinge of sarcasm as we tackled bug after bug while shrugging and simply saying, “That’s Niantic.” I literally can’t understand how this company threw together so many things it’s previously done before, knowing not only about unfixed bugs but also its own reputation for poor communication and ineptitude at reading the room, and it still produced a high-FOMO, low-reward event that’ll only serve as a further stain on its evaporating reputation.

I’m not trying to be hyperbolic with that statement, either. The number of repeated issues in such a short amount of time almost makes it seem as if Niantic is intentionally tanking the game. How do you roll back most of the quality-of-life changes that brought in new players, raise prices on lower-quality package deals, frequently release bugged content, and forget to publish your promised communications diary on the anniversary of one of your biggest community protests and still expect to keep making money?

That question has a simple answer, unfortunately: People are still paying for it. While the company may not be maximizing its profits, I suspect that between “whales” who are now “allowed” to gift certain items to other players and the long line of corporations foolish enough to expect Niantic to reproduce its 2016 POGO magic despite community backlash, Niantic as a whole is probably making money.

But at this point, Niantic is simply famous for being famous, despite struggling to even launch a new game, let alone keep it afloat. Even if Niantic lost the bulk of its community, advertisers and IP holders are going to need to hurt Niantic’s wallet for the company to feel the sting of its failures.

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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