Massively on the Go: Pokemon GO’s Hoenn Tours had the lowest value of all tours to date


While I thought Pokemon Go’s Las Vegas Hoenn Tour was bad, the Global one was somehow worse.

Now, to be clear, there is a difference between “services rendered” and “fun.” No doubt, I had fun during the event. Large events are what bring my communities together, and the Hoenn Tour did that.

However, in what’s quickly becoming the norm, we had fun despite Niantic’s changing of the Tour formula.

Yes, some of the changes did make the event better. Someone did hear us in some regards. But in typical Niantic fashion, it’s another one step forward, two steps back situation, and once again, players are realizing that we’re not customers; we’re data to be sold. For this Massively On the Go, we’re not just going to talk about the recent Global Hoenn Tour or the pair of recent Hoenn Tours; we’ll also discuss how they stack up against past POGO Tours. And it’s not pretty.

The real winners

While most of the improvements will essentially have a big asterisks indicating why a “win” isn’t exactly a win, there are two particular areas I feel Niantic improved without having any gross errors. The first and most obvious was extending the event from one day to two days. As predicted when the event was first announced, the shiny rates among my group weren’t exactly the best. Weather wasn’t ideal on Day 1, and that may have been a factor, but the one friend who was able to come out both days had luck comparable to the last tour she played. Even better, though, was the pacing. We’ll discuss the specific content later, but by having less guided content but plenty of raids and interesting spawns spread across two days, we though it felt easier to quit or take it slow if we wanted to, and we could still come back the next day.

The second win for the game is the return of Wild Legendaries. Not only is it motivating, but the fact that Niantic made it so that wild shiny Lati twins won’t flee made them even more exciting. The only downsides were that Vegas Hoenn Tour attendees couldn’t see the Latis on our radar, and that we only could find our version’s Lati, rather than having three potential Legendary Pokemon to encounter as we did in Johto. That’s a win for Niantic in my book, and I hope the studio gets enough feedback to build more content like this rather than some of the other experiments the company conducted on players.

Debatable improvements

Now, there are still other things Niantic did well enough to mention, but in a mixed fashion. For example, not having to catch every Gen 3 pokemon as we did with Gen 2 and 1 was good for a lot of casual players. It meant less stress and more time to do what people really want to do (i.e., raid, find quests, search for particular pokemon). The collection quests, main questline, hunting Wild Legendaries, raids, and various themed quest research (not including the Sapphire/Ruby stuff, which no one in my group cared about or believed wasn’t rigged anyway) was just on the cusp of what many of my locals were able to mentally juggle. And that’s good.

At the same time, while we didn’t need to catch everything, there were people who wanted to but couldn’t: The Spinda variants weren’t available for Global players outside of the one at the end of the major questline, which was kind of a big letdown, not just because it’s a single Spinda but because it’s a minor collector’s item that required players to do multiple, challenging raids for the most powerful pokemon to date. The Regis were available only through the one-time code redemption, but they’re popular, as opposed to the various Deoxys forms, which largely seemed to be taking up space. And then there’s the Megas.

It was also nice that there was randomly granted Mega Energy for the legendary Lati twin your version got from spinning Pokestops, but much like the Hoenn Starter Mega Energy quests, it was aimed at giving ammo to those who had some, rather than building enough for players without it to actually Mega something.

This was even more problematic with the Hoenn Starters since Niantic gave people less than a week to prepare for a few hours on a single day to obtain the energy for them. Among my personal friend group, I was the only one able to get enough energy prior to the Hoenn Tours, and it was only by using Remote Raid Passes and playing with people in New Zealand, the very sort of play Niantic seems to be taking issue with via the upcoming Remote Raid nerfs that have leaked. During the event, none of my friends got enough energy to Mega a starter, even though we had two days and I would specifically mention when I’d find a quest. Again, it’s nice Niantic showed some effort, but for non-Vegas attendees, it was weak.


I think the best way to compare the events is to look at what features previous years offered compared to this year, primarily considering the free aspect of the events to get a base sense of the value behind these events. Just as a comparison to last year’s official Johto Tour benefits page:

Johto Tour Free to Play Event Hoenn Global Tour (Free)
Contest for players to become NPCs
Community Day moves via Evolution
Six special trades 1 special trade
Regionals available as raid boss/reward Regionals available in 10k eggs (lockboxes)
While we’re looking only at the free aspect of the event, that’s because Niantic offered zero Global Event tickets for the first time in the Tour event history, outside of the paid Vegas part. Already that puts the Vegas event at a disadvantage, and it may be a warning that Go Fest, which drastically improved during COVID by becoming a Global Event, may also be in danger.

The contest to become an NPC in game may seem negligible, but it helped boost chatter about the event. Even though we’ve known about this event since November, people make other plans. They forget. It happened with one of the communities I’m less active in, and it’s quite a shame, as even while lacking Community Day moves, the Primal Raid pokemon and their Primal forms are powerful and useful enough to nearly match Primal Rayquaza’s predicted standing among all Megas. While the NPC battles have been generally disliked, the contests have been fun for the players and social media while also helping to create buzz.

Then there’s the issue with Community Day moves. Catching and evolving all the pokemon in previous years was stressful, but it could also help remind people that they may have been sitting on pokemon with exclusive moves they could finally activate. After the first two Tour events, people were expecting this feature to return. It’s been a great catch-up mechanic and helps motivate players.

Without it, two of my players lacking good Hoenn starters basically forgot to focus on them. Between being unmotivated to get the piddling Mega Energy rewards and knowing they’d have good ones taking up space for months to years, they totally forgot to search for them or ask the rest of us to hold some to trade them. As starters as often the big hook into any new Pokemon generation/game, Niantic dropping the ball on CD moves, which largely affect starters, is a big black mark on the event.

And then there was forcing players to gamble for regionals rather than raid for them. Niantic previously had raid trouble with the Kanto regionals in raids, and while I get that Niantic didn’t want to release regionals into the wild or have more raids cluttering the raid-boss-odds, this wasn’t the way to do it. It’s not just gambling, though; it’s also more expensive to pay for a single incubator (about $1.50 USD with no discounts) than it is a raid pass ($1 USD with no discounts). In fact, the over-reliance on raids for all the various legendaries while still not making several of them available for multiple catches indicates to me that Niantic ran out of ideas and didn’t consider simply turning this Tour into something else, like a week-long event similar to the Kanto Tour countdown event when we had almost a week to focus on Hoenn. That would have helped with pacing, spreading out legendaries, and more.

Since it keeps coming up, it’s important to note just how raid-heavy but Raid Pass-lite this event was. Previous events had paid options that granted extra passes, among other rewards, and you had at least enough to do one of each relevant raid (and remember, catching them all was the main goal).

However, if you saved a Daily Pass on Friday to get an extra one for the Hoenn Tour, and added to the two Premium Passes given from the event quests, you’d be left with five “free” raid passes. However, your quest line gets you only halfway to Primal evolving your chosen team’s mascot, and even in lobbies full of players, I never got the max Primal Energy rewards. While last-minute datamining reduced my prediction of players needing to do 10 raids total down to eight, those five “free” passes still would leave most players short three passes. And again, that’s assuming people don’t raid for the Deoxys forms or anything else.

This was really where people started to feel like the “Hoenn Tour” was basically an extended raid event, but without the raid passes. Niantic wants to make money, sure, but by asking people to pay for passes instead of an event pass, the company highlighted its corporate greed instead of access to special content. While some players may point to the Shiny Jirachi Masterwork research, it’s not meant to be completed during the tours and the known rewards didn’t make it a substitute for previous years’ paid event bonuses, like various costumes, increased shiny odds, extra raid passes, bonus candy multipliers, reduced egg-distance requirements, and more. There was also more paid options for increased storage; this year was a measly 50 spaces, further driving home that Niantic is looking for us to generate data to sell rather than sell us digital goods we readily pay for.

The raid emphasis situation was made worse for players who don’t have local raid communities, as we’ve previously mentioned that the Primals, especially Kyogre, aren’t exactly easy, especially when a quick win brings more Primal Energy, the main reason repeated raids were required to obtain the actual Primal unlocks.

Sadly, we’re not done. Even if you could somehow ignore the overwhelming power and temptation of the Primals to focus on regular wild ‘mon, there was the incense situation. The Johto Tour at least could provide people stuck in-doors or in a stationary position with some decent progression, at least in terms of capturing pokemon, though going out was still very much the best way to play. However, as we noted in the closing of the Hoenn Global Tour guide, Niantic has a history of issuing nerfs after major events. Following the Johto Tour, Incense stopped working well when stationary, though it does work better if you’re moving. That means the Hoenn Tour didn’t allow for as much stationary play, yet its biggest feature, raids, are very much stationary gameplay.

Compounding that was the fact that many places in the Northern Hemisphere are in the middle of winter, and in the US, it’s particularly bad. Despite the usual mild weather in my area, one of the tour days here started out rainy, became hot enough that I had to take off my rain coat and hat, then became windy enough that I needed the hat again, followed by rain that soaked my friend and me to our socks, had rain and sunshine simultaneously, followed by hail… you better believe weather cut down on my ability to walk and play! And that’s just where I live, which is generally temperate in winter; large parts of the US are under literal snow and ice with genuinely frigid temps right now.

But the incense issue doesn’t have to always be an issue. Niantic secretly turned the COVID-era incense back on for the first part of Go Fest 2022, but for whatever reason, it didn’t think to do that again. If it’s because it still struggles with despawn bugs, I wouldn’t be surprised as Niantic just gave up on the bug as it has with Kecleon’s, which is now considered a feature.

And once again, bugs plagued another Niantic event. In particular, the long-standing login issues that plagued Vegas and raid issues which became so very infamous during the Elite Raids were hitting worse than usual. My hardcore-turned-casual friend hadn’t noticed either before the Hoenn Tour, saw them plague our community in the few hours she could participate, yet wasn’t surprised; she’s yet another person who has exceedingly low expectations from Niantic, and while disappointed, is rarely surprised by its failures.

Bugged game font on the left, “Cipher” font on the right

Which again brings us to the “Cipher” quests. Much as in Vegas, the casual community overwhelming mistook the “Cipher” font for a glitch, even among casuals who hadn’t seen that particular bug before. That is to say, Niantic’s reputation for errors is so great that the wrong art/style can lead players to believe the game is bugged.

And that, sadly, is the best example of the event: While an attempt was made, the community at large will most likely see it as a mistake. Yes, Niantic made some improvements, ones that I personally had hoped for and was thrilled to receive. I actually had a lot of fun during the event. However, I also objectively noticed all the little complaints that piled up, not only in my group but from strangers, many of which we’d known about from the Vegas Tour. Niantic’s silence before and after Vegas most likely meant Niantic also knew the issues and chose to ignore them.

If Niantic had simply added a paid option to the Global event as done in the past, used some kind of community participation contest to keep players engaged during the event build-up, included the additional special trades, and brought back the Community Day moves, the Hoenn Tour as a whole would have been a win.

However, between the Vegas Event letdown and a tour that felt like the more generic weeklong events we get every other week per month as a two-day raid event with no extra raid passes, the Hoenn Tour lands as the worst of the three Pokemon Region Tours Niantic’s executed to date. Arceus help it if the changes made to the Tour formula, particularly the evisceration of paid Global Tickets with decent value, are similarly applied to 2023’s Go Fest later this year.

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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