Pokémon GO Season Of Celebration Review: The First Season

Niantic introduced a new era of Pokémon GO in December 2020 by adding Seasons to the game. Seasons are three-month-long themes that now run in-game roughly alongside of standard seasons, with the first, the Season of Celebration, coinciding with winter and the second and current Season of Legends coinciding with spring. Now that the Season of Celebration has wrapped in Pokémon GO, let's take a look back at the debut entry of this new format of gameplay.

Season of Celebration graphic for Pokémon GO. Credit: Niantic
Season of Celebration graphic for Pokémon GO. Credit: Niantic

What worked in this Season of Pokémon GO

  • Seasons in general: First up, the Season of Celebration gets a point as being the first entry in a new format that has promise. Seasons fix a major problem in Pokémon GO, which previously relied exclusively on weather boost and biomes to dictate what spawned outside of events. This made Pokémon GO rather boring when events weren't going on, but at the same time back-to-back events felt overwhelming. Seasons created a way for Niantic to shift those non-event spawns every three months, offering different options to the Northern and Southern hemispheres while not totally removing weather spawns and biomes. This is a terrific idea applied quite well.
  • The return of exclusive moves: December 2020 Recap Community Day was an odd one as previous Community Day moves were missing for the first time, but the full scope of Niantic's plans became clear when they allowed these moves to be unlocked during subsequent events. At a time when events were less than stellar, this enriched gameplay.
  • Bonuses: XP bonuses ran all through the first month of the Season, which was perfectly timed to help players get a leg up on Levels 41 – 50 which had just been introduced.
  • Pokémon GO Tour: Kanto: This ticketed event closed out the Season of Celebration with a bang. In our full review of the event, you can read about how this redeemed Niantic's recent missteps in some ways by offering the best remote event in Pokémon GO yet.
  • The end: The events featured at the tail end of the Season of Celebration showed an improvement, which shows Niantic was listening.

What didn't work in this Season of Pokémon GO

  • Structure: The biggest flaw of the Season of Celebration was the structure of the events. The Holiday event, one of the most hyped events annually, offered fewer features to player than the mini-event that led into it. Then, January and February were filled with "Celebration Events" focused on each region, counting down to Pokémon GO Tour: Kanto. Until Johto, these events felt like after-thoughts with little for longtime players to do. Shiny releases were far and few between, new species were non-existent, and the lack of Timed Research in most of these made it hard not to compare this series of events negatively to last year's region-themed events counting down to GO Fest 2020.
  • Raid-gated Shinies for a limited time: Releasing a new Shiny in raids can work well. For example, Timburr, Klink, and Shinx? All terrific, raid/egg-only Shinies that are often featured and thus enrich the raid rotation. However, Niantic's focus during the Season of Celebration on cutting down Shiny releases and locking new Shinies to raids was frustrating. The worst offended was Rufflet, which was difficult to find in raids at all, but the limited Jynx feature during the Holiday 2020 event was also baffling.
  • Shiny Snivy: Amid complaints about the lack of interesting Pokémon and starters in Community Day, Niantic came through by… releasing Shiny Snivy in the wild during a short event, making it the first-ever starter to get a non-Community Day Shiny release. At that point, it almost felt like trolling.
  • Raids: Speaking of trolling. Kyurem was the first Pokémon featured during the introduction of Remote Raid Invites, making it a Pokémon that most players had. Niantic followed up on Kyurem with short raid rotations, featuring most Pokémon for a week or two. Rather than continue this through the Season of Celebration, the company killed the raid rotation as soon as the Season started with a five-week-long Kyurem feature in raids. Why? No one knows. No Reshiram and Zekrom, who Niantic meant to be available during Remote Raid Invites but then apologized and promised they'd be back when they didn't get the feature out in time. No fun, breezy series of raid rotations. Instead, a five-week feature of a Pokémon that was readily available just a few months prior.

Overall

Seasons as a whole? Great idea. Unfortunately, many aspects of the two-thirds of the Season of Celebration made it the least interesting, most frustrating time to play Pokémon GO in the game's history. Now, things are starting to get back to the exciting place they were before December 2020. Niantic will be able to keep that on track if they listen to the player base and take note on what Pokémon GO trainers want… and more importantly, what they don't want.

About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.