It's an odd time to be a devoted Pokémon GO player. A little over a month after directly complying with the demands of a boycott that came as a result of Niantic pulling back the pandemic bonuses, we're seeing a new trend. Influencers who have built their followings creating Pokémon GO content are claiming that the game is "dying." This would normally not be news, but some of those influencers have millions of followers… so a claim like that may indeed raise red flags. It is clear from anyone following the numbers, though, that Pokémon GO is nowhere near its death bed. Its events do well, the game remains a staple of many lives, and Niantic has gone on record multiple times about making this into "forever" game. A game that becomes part of one's lifestyle rather than just a hobby. However, at the same time, the claims about the state of Pokémon GO aren't entirely random. We are indeed seeing major adjustments made to the game, and many have not been well-received. While I tend to think Niantic does a good job with the game overall, I too have found myself being far more critical in my write-ups this year as these changes are made. Let's take a look at what Niantic can do to get Pokémon GO back on track in 2022 so that it does, indeed, stay the course and become a forever game.
- Events need new content: Part of the major changes Niantic has made can be seen in the pace of events. In 2019 and 2020, it seemed that every event released a new species and a new Shiny. It is easy to see how that isn't sustainable. Pokémon GO is well on its way toward catching up with the main series games… and then what? It is in Niantic's interest to slow down on their releases, and four events per month with a new Shiny each time isn't going to work. However, there are so many ways that Niantic can keep events fresh without causing themselves problems. Events should offer new content every time, and a way to do that is to keep up with other aspects of the game. We should see:
- More Shadow Pokémon introduced. Treat these as a major release!
- Costumes: Some hate them, yes. However, this is a way to keep events fresh without having to rush through Shiny releases.
- Special variants of Pokémon: The anime alone had so much to pull from. Spiky-ears Pichu. The Pikachu with the Elvis fluff. Crystal Onix. Pink Butterfree. Creative, limited releases like this can prolong the game.
- Nerfing aspects of the game only works when you're also adding to it: Niantic has a habit of stripping a formerly awesome feature to its bones without any warning and without anything taking its place. This has happened to both the Research Breakthrough Box and Community Day. If Niantic added to these events as they took away, it would make playing these nerfed aspects of Pokémon GO less frustrating. For example, it's clear we're not going to have a new Shiny every Community Day. What if, then, Community Day allowed for global remote trades? It is supposed to be about the Community, after all. It doesn't have to be that, but if beloved event is going to be stripped of its features, it only makes sense to build it back up in a more sustainable way.
- Overhaul Mega Raids: Niantic did a good job, in my opinion, of responding to the changes that the Pokémon GO community wanted. The fact remains, though, that Megas are unpopular. Overhauling Mega Raids and turning them into a draw is a major aspect of what Niantic should be focusing on in 2022.
- PVP fixes: GO Battle League has had issues for a long time and some issues persist. Niantic has already indicated that they're working on this, but fixing this would be a major win for Pokémon GO PVPers.
- Tier One and Three: These tiers are often totally dead in raids. Featuring common Pokémon in raids is a waste. Niantic would benefit if they added more interesting species to raids. For example, I never see Shuckle in the wild in my region. I'd happily raid it.
- Trainer battles: The Fashion Challengers and the Pokémon GO Tour Kanto Challengers worked beautifully. It'd be nice to see non-Rocket trainer battles with trainer classes like Bug Catcher, Lass, etc. as an ongoing part of the game.
- Narrative: Finally, introducing narrative through Special Research is a good bet. Pokémon GO fits seamlessly into the real world, yes, but if Niantic wants to adjust the game back to a mostly outdoors game, they should enrich the outdoors experience. What if, for example, we had to entirely battle down a gym in order to unlock a Research reward that leads to a battle with a Gym Leader? Then, when we have defeated all of the Gym Leaders, we can advance to the Elite Four. It doesn't have to be just that, but there is so much to the world of Pokémon that Niantic can explore by adding to the game rather than consistently taking away.
How do you think Niantic can improve Pokémon GO in 2022?