Pokemon GO has changed a lot since it was a global phenomenon back in the summer of 2016. The servers are no longer a constant issue, we’re beginning to see Generation 3 Pokemon added to the world, the Gym system has been changed dramatically, and staged events have brought fans from all over the world together. The game is far better than those who put it down early may remember. However, none of those things have stopped people from stepping away from the game over the past 18 months and a significant reason for that is how Niantic rolls out each piece of new content.
Every time, it begins with Niantic releasing an event which brings with it something new, whether that be Raid bosses, unseen Pokemon, or increased spawns. Then, fans flood back to catch the new creatures and the game is exciting again. However, players then burn through the new content in a couple of days and the game goes back to being dull and empty.
That exact series of events happened with Pokemon GO’s last event, the Halloween one that ran from late October to early November. The hype was higher than it had been for the previous few events as it signaled the debut of Generation 3. Five new Pokemon (Sableye, Shuppet, Banette, Duskull, and Dusclops) were added to the game, as well as their shiny variants. The rest of the event was content we’ve seen before, such as double candies, reduced egg incubation distances, and increased ‘ghostly’ spawns for Pokemon such as Ghastly and their evolutions, Cubone, and Murkrow.
The issue with those boosts, however, is that only the five Generation 3 Pokemon are new and exciting. The players that are still invested, who are likely to have put a lot of time into the game over the past 18 months, have no need for Pokemon like Cubone and Ghastly. That isn’t only because their evolutions (more so in Cubone/Marowak’s case) are no longer meta-Pokemon for battling gyms, but because trainers have probably already got plenty of them in their collection.
Then there are the issues with the new Pokemon. Since Ghost type spawns were increased for the period of the event, all five of the new Pokemon, especially the Stage 1 Pokemon, were extremely easy to find. I was able to evolve to Dusclops from the comfort of my couch just by collecting the candies from the Duskull that spawned outside my house. That meant that is was easy to catch all the new Pokemon during the first couple of days of the event. Due to how frequently they spawned, how easy they were to catch due to their low CP, and how easy it was to get their candy with the double candy boost and Pinap berries, you could add them all to your Pokedex in very little time. Shiny variants of the Generation 3 Pokemon were also added, but they were so rare that many people didn’t find one, let alone all of them, by the time the event ended and Ghost types became quite rare again.
Niantic needs to roll out new content more often to keep players invested because much of the original content simply isn’t compelling anymore. They should stop holding content back from the game and releasing new Pokemon in tiny batches ever so often. The recent Raid Boss refresh is the perfect example of this. While it’s novel to see new Pokemon as Raid opponents, catching Pokemon like Tentacruel isn’t something long time players will go out of their way to do anymore because they probably have more than one already.
You could make an extensive list charting everything that has been held back from Pokemon GO, ignoring the gameplay features people would like such as PvP battles. Just four of the possible Gen 1, and one of the Gen 2, shiny Pokemon are in the game (Gyarados, Magikarp, Pikachu, Raichu, Pichu), Smeargle and Delibird have still yet to appear at all, nine months after Generation 2’s launch, presumably due to their unique movesets, and not all the legendaries have been available from Raids or elsewhere. With the remainder of Generation 3 supposedly just a few weeks away, we probably won’t see any of these missing Pokemon or features until at least 2018.
In lieu of a brand new gameplay element that adds a competitive side to the game, Niantic needs to ensure that there is always something new for players to do. Between themed events, such as the inevitable upcoming Thanksgiving one, the back log of content should release. The Generation 1 shiny Pokemon could release between Thanksgiving and the December Generation 3 release, with the missing Gen 2 Pokemon filling the next gap. Each of those things give the player something new to experience or chase after during the usual downtime, keeping them invested. Either that, or make each themed event more substantial so that players are involved for long enough that they’re still playing when the next event comes around. Hopefully we’ll see this, or something happen with the events this holiday and into the new year. And if Niantic ever feels like finally adding battling and trading, that would be great too. But we’re not going to hold our breath.