It’s year two of Pokemon Go. While there’s always room for improvement, enough has changed that I feel comfortable recommending the game to at least pre-World of Warcraft MMO fans. Why them and not the greater MMO community? Glad you (hopefully) asked! Unlike most true MMOs, POGO is still in its early infancy in terms of in-game community. Much as in early online games, players may be able to have a friend’s list, but not only is basic chat lacking but so is guild/clan support. There’s no party system, which means no group finder, let alone instanced content that lets you join in with little to no effort.
Like old school MMOs, POGO players have to use a lot of out of game tools for their communities, but there’s enough going on that fellow Massively OP reporters Brendan Drain and Tina Lauro Pollock have renewed their interest in the game. While Brendan had previously attempted some casual raids, both he and Tina had quit entirely. As the game just had not one but two events this weekend as part of its second year anniversary, we decided to try moving out of our comfort zone and looking at the game’s community from new perspectives. Brendan and Tina tried jumping in for the events for the first time, while I tried playing outside my usual community, with mixed results.
Today is Pokemon Go’s second-year anniversary. Last year’s report card had to grapple with things like the game’s rapid rise and fall as a fad, its severe lack of promised content even with its first major update, crimes associated with the game, and being somewhat anti-social – and that was before the disaster known as Pokemon Go fest 2017. It was probably the worst way to start off a new year for your game, and it’s probably no surprise that our coverage of the game waned after the fallout.
But something happened. Whether it was because series Director/Producer Junichi Masuda was there to witness the horror or because some internal change in Niantic’s process changed, we’ll probably never know. But change came. Generation 3 became Pokemon Go’s One Tamriel. Suggestions I’d made previously happened and are still happening. The numbers are showing that the improvements are paying off, as the game’s playerbase is at the highest it’s been since its 2016 peak, after having gone through a brutal 80% dropoff. I thought I was being overly optimistic with my 2018 predictions for the game, but so far, so very good!
All right. Let’s walk back through this. Pokemon Go holds an event in Dortmund, Germany. Because this is Pokemon Go, the event hits technical snags, which at this point is more of a theme for the game than catching things or gym battles. But once the game works again, people get to enjoy things like catching the elusive Corsola, normally available only around the equator. To apologize for the technical issues, Niantic promises to add a limited-time event wherein everyone in Europe can catch… Corsola.
You know, the rare monster that was made accessible during the event, which many people traveled to Dortmund for and caught several of just to make for rare trades.
Needless to say, players are rather unhappy about the fact that the apology for technical hiccups at the start of the event is to make the entire event what amounts to an expensive waste of time. There were, of course, other incentives for the trip, but many players are understandably upset about this form of compensation for attendees and non-attendees alike. Based on the current track record, we expect Niantic to compensate for this new misstep by blowing up everyone’s phones.
We’ve got some MMO industry topics you shouldn’t miss, so welcome back to our MMO business roundup!
• Last week, Pokemon Go company Niantic previewed what it’s calling the Niantic Real World Platform, a huge step forward for augmented reality games and tools.
“The Niantic Real World Platform advances the way computers see the world, moving from a model centered around roads and cars to a world centered around people. Modeling this people-focused world of parks, trails, sidewalks, and other publicly accessible spaces requires significant computation. The technology must be able to resolve minute details, to specifically digitize these places, and to model them in an interactive 3D space that a computer can quickly and easily read. We are also tackling the challenge of bringing this kind of sophisticated technology to power-limited mobile devices. The highest quality gameplay requires a very accurate ‘live’ model that adapts to the dynamics of the world. It needs to accomplish the difficult task of adjusting the model as the environment around the user changes, or as people move themselves–or their phones.”
Niantic, don’t play with my heart like this. After enduring years of Pikachu hats for various events in Pokemon Go, there may be a chance that Niantic will finally give some ascetic love (beyond shinies) to a Pokemon outside the electric mouse family: Squirtle.
Since the announcement of Squirtle Community Day, people have flooded the official Pokemon Go twitter announcement with demands that Niantic do more than it usually does with other Pokemon, giving rise to the hashtag #SquirtleSquadorRiot. While there’s been no official announcement, fans are hoping that the above header image may be a clue that the team has heard fans’ cries,
though I remain skeptical at this point. (Update– It’s been confirmed).
Casual Pokemon fans just need to know that the original manga and anime had a gang of Squirtle in sunglasses that causes mischief, which naturally the hero must put right, eventually causing the gang to turn over a new leaf. The gang has been referenced in the game series as early as Pokemon Yellow and remains a fan favorite.
There are new multiplayer Pokemon games coming to the Nintendo Switch, and just like Pokemon Go, they’ll bring with them motion controls for picking up the eponymous Pokemon. Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu will both feature similar mechanics for tossing pokeballs and capturing monsters, with several other features inspired by Pokemon Go… and the option to transfer the original 151 Pokemon from your Pokemon Go stable into the game.
Yes, all of that work you did roaming in the park to catch Pidgeys is going to pay off. The titles even are planned to include multiplayer, so just go out and catch every single Pidgey.
The cross-compatibility doesn’t work both ways, but Pokemon Go will still be celebrating by introducing the Alolan Exeggutor variant to the game along with the launch of these titles. This is the first Alolan form added to the game, and it should give you another reason to catch these particular monsters out in the world. Assuming you like giant beasts with three eggs for heads.
Remember our article on how easy it would be for Niantic to skip generations and add Pokemon Sun and Moon ‘mon to Pokemon Go? Well, seems Niantic agreed, as they’ve just announced that the game is getting several Alolan variants of the Kanto 150 we old-timers know and love.
“Sunny days are ahead! Whether your forecast calls for rain or shine, we’re celebrating all around the world by introducing some special Pokémon from the tropical Alola region to Pokémon GO. Get ready for some of the Pokémon originally discovered in the Kanto region to appear in their Alolan forms! These unique variants were first seen in the Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon video games, and they will make their way to Pokémon GO in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for news related to this exciting change—and don’t forget to tell your friends! Stay safe, and happy exploring!”
While the game’s obviously progressed since our original pitch, it does mean that the game’s meta may get a bit of a shakeup, but not like before. Few details have been revealed, but we can’t imagine Niantic doing anything more than releasing a few new Pokemon and possibly a skill or two. We’ll see as details hopefully are revealed later!
It’s no exaggeration to say that last year’s Pokemon Go Fest was a complete and total disaster. It made a ton of money – almost $6M on the second day alone – but the PR fallout was epic, as thousands of people who paid to attend couldn’t actually get into the event park and thousands more couldn’t connect to the game once inside thanks to overloaded cell networks. On top of the logistical nightmare, the event turned out to be a pay-to-win debacle too. When Niantic CEO John Hanke took the stage to calm everyone and apologize, he was met with boos from his own die-hard fans. A spokesperson later said the studio was “horrified” with the way the event turned out and refunded all players for their tickets (and then some). That didn’t stop players who’d paid to travel long distances to Chicago for the event from forging ahead with a class-action lawsuit, which Niantic quite recently settled to the tune of $1.5M.
Since then, Niantic has run several successful events of a similar magnitude to last year’s Chicago event, including a massive festival in Yokohama, and they’ve all gone well, which must surely give the company courage for announcing a series of summer events dubbed Pokemon Go Summer Tour 2018.
A lot of critical things have been said about Pokemon Go and Niantic in the past. Professionals that tried to defend certain UI elements still had plenty of suggestions a non-professional could have made. Same goes for players and professionals that noted the need for quests. In fact, Niantic’s insistence on doing local events instead of global events created some huge PR problems, and that’s without noting that, for a social game, the game actually lacked a lot of social features.
But there’s a weird thing: Niantic’s addressed many of those issues. Several are ones I’ve previously suggested. There’ve been several UI improvements, new quests, at least two events per month since February 2018 that aren’t just cash shop sales, and a push towards community building. It’s far from perfect, like the glaring omission of in-game communication or a social media connection, but we’ll ignore that for now. What I want to focus on is how Niantic’s taken feedback and enhanced Pokemon Go.
I’d like to think that I’m kind of a healthy gamer. While MMOs take a lot of time, the nice thing is that their downtime can lead to forming bonds, or give you time to exercise. Augmented reality games can give you both at once, especially Pokemon Go, since it’s the best-known ARG we have (and the mountains of merchandise make it easier to stand out as a fellow player).
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and I’m not just talking about game mechanics that have plagued Niantic games since at Ingress. I remember playing that title and thinking, “Man, this game is dangerous! There’s no way they’ll just clone this for POGO, right?” And yet, here we are. But I can’t put all the blame on Niantic, especially after my time with ARG competitor Maguss. Some things just seem inherent to the genre.
In all my years working for Massively and Massively OP, we’ve never had enough Earth Day events for a proper roundup. That isn’t changing this year either. But there are a few here and there worth pointing out, and one of those is Pokemon Go’s.
In spite of all the stories about how POGO players are wrecking up cities and parks and nature preserves in their quest to catch ’em all, the MMOARG is almost uniquely positioned to be a force for good for the planet, given that Niantic can point millions of people at a thing and grant them digital candy for doing whatever. This year, that “whatever” is going to be cleaning up. Literally.
“Niantic, Inc. and Playmob are teaming up to host the first ever Pokémon GO Earth Day Clean Up on April 22. The Pokémon GO Earth Day Clean Up initiative is a series of events that will take place across locations around the world, inviting the Pokémon GO community to join together to clean up the environment and their local areas. Trainers will also have an opportunity to donate to the Mission Blue Foundation, a global coalition united to inspire public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas.”
Remember when Pokemon Go had a big live festival for player in Chicago? Considering how quickly the event devolved into a nightmare, Niantic is probably hoping you don’t remember it. The studio had already announced it would refund the ticket prices for attendees, but in wake of a class action suit to recover other costs related to the event, the developer is ultimately paying out over $1.5 million to all those who attended the event.
A website for the settlement will be set up no later than May 25th according to court documents, with claimants needing to have checked in to the location via the app and provide receipts for claims over $107. Any leftover money is going to charity, not back to Niantic. It’s a pretty big figure and a notable piece of compensation for the disastrous event; whether or not it soothes lingering hurt feelings remains to be seen.
A while back, you may recall that I posted some of my conversations with anthropomorphized concepts of MMO studios. If you don’t remember this, you will not be eligible for this year’s Remembering Championship, but considering the fact that said championship is mostly determined by who remembers to show up, odds of that were always low. It’s a memory championship, after all. You can’t judge that like, say, curling.
What were we talking about? Oh, right, MMO studios. Despite that single column, I have continued to have other conversations with various studios, most of which have gone about as well as the first batch. So if you’ve long awaited to know more about the concepts I speak with, your wishes have come true.
If you wish to know about my conversations with my neighbor, I cannot help you.