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Why Pokemon GO Falls Short


Pokemon GO is a augmented reality mobile game that released (without announcement) on July 6th, 2016 (in the U.S.). I was in my friend’s car when I refreshed the Google Play store, and searched ‘pokemon’ to come across its app tile in the results. When I got home, I rushed to that Play Store and downloaded and installed Pokemon GO. I thought I would love this game; I figured it would be the game to get mobile games the attention and traction they needed. I thought wrong.

Since its release, Pokemon GO and developer Niantic has faced challenge after challenge, bug after bug, complaint after complaint. Many eager North American player’s first few days of the game was greeted with constant server shortages and only able to play every so often for a few minutes. Naturally, these outages came about from the influx of new players trying to access; simple tech stuff, right? Well, the first blow to the game and the first sign of failure arose from this: little to no comment about the servers from the company, and in a game where we were given some PokeBalls, and sent on our way. Eventually (about a week or so later) the servers became stable for the most part; most looked past Niantic’s shy communication with the players and continued to enjoy the game, as did I.

After the servers were finally stable, me and my Pokemon-avid brother would take out at night to “cath em’ all,” and being the mega fan my brother is of the franchise: he enjoyed nearly every minute. I had fun, sure, but something began to set in the back of my mind. Something we all know very well; something we all dread. It was there and I knew it instantly. This feeling creeping on me was none other than boredom. It wasn’t too much to trouble me at first, but then the game finally reached its peak of social media attention and that’s when I knew this would go downhill for me as a player, and for the mobile game itself.

Every single day here in Ohio, out in the blistering heat; people I knew (including my brother and his friends) would travel to universities near and far and wander aimlessly for hours to capture the abundance of Pokemon available. I can say during my time of playing, I never felt the need to travel as this game shouldn’t treat the larger cities with more spawns. However, it does and people in small towns like me are left with little to no spawns – at the beginning this was okay with me. I was just simply leveling up and hoping to evolve my Pokemon; playing freely whilst many others were ditching town and spending a good deal of cash on the game.

So, as I continued to get bored with the capturing mechanics (which felt at the time and at this time still seem quite broken [regarding capture rate]) I decided to simply grind my Pokemon with the most CP so I can take some gyms. This part of the game is nearly impossible. Active players at the time (e.g people on the social media wagon) of course played this game with every single second of their free time that they could, and of course this made capturing and holding gyms within the game very close to impossible. I would capture a gym, just to have it taken within about 20 minutes or more (give or take). It started to make me feel even less motivated to take part in the game.

Then, the social media ‘hype’ and ‘buzz’ of the game soon turned to distrust and conspiracy as the in-game tracker broke. This tool was essential to the whole concept of catching Pokemon, as you could have an estimate of knowing when you’d be close or far from a Pokemon. Without any patch or word, this stayed a problem. Then we got an update: for “minor text fixes.” This, of course being a ridiculous excuse for an update, developed into a bit of a fond ‘meme’ for many of the games players. These ‘minor text fixes’ did not fix the tracker and did not improve gameplay.

Then, the relatively-young Niantic began to dig itself a deeper whole. A considerable “first major update” arrived, and with it they removed the tracker completely. This of course caused an uproar with players, but many continued on in hopes of one day “catching em’ all.” I also continued to play this, but definitely not as much as I did the prior month.

Pokemon GO = sad pikachu

About a day or so after Niantic’s big tracker-fiasco, the company was purportedly the reason behind the shut downs of many of the online Pokemon GO tracker websites. Many players now felt like the company had been suppressing them, and that there was no way to enjoy the game at all. And I agree. Thought, there is much more to why this mobile game “phenomenon” fall short.

People only see the negatives as given: removed tracking, lack of communication, shutting down fan-run websites, etc. Of course, these taint Niantic’s name and all that they do. But there was, from the start, and has been another negative of the game that led it to what I consider it’s demise: the player base.

Many will agree when they say this game belongs into an “over-hyped” and “bandwagon” category of sorts. Many die-hard Pokemon fans hyped it, and many people who never even cared and/or heard of the series played it “because everyone else was.” And this isn’t necessarily bad: all the time. Many people play games because many others are; fun games like Overwatch, CS:GO, and even relative mobile titles like Fruit Ninja and Crossy Road are played by millions due to bandwagon. It’s natural. But in the case of Pokemon GO, it was too much. There’s mobile games that are addictive, and then there’s ones that become addictive strictly because of the need to feel like you have conquered over your peers and other strangers.

pokemon go competitive

Thanks to the awful leveling system, I was stuck at level 16 forever, barely making it to 17 before I stopped playing. And I chose to stop playing 1) because of the player base and 2) because of the brokenness of the game. Every other player and their grandma had done nothing with their lives besides this game in every breathing moment that they weren’t working or sleeping. Every gym holder and those contributing Pokemon to protect it were way out of my league – level 20+ players with Dragonites and Venasaurs all over 1,500+ CP (much much stronger than anything I can hatch/find at level 17.) I no longer had a point to try for gyms, and the only other mechanic was broken due to messed-up catching rates (low CP Pokemon would break out of a Great Ball and run, despite however many razz berries were tossed its way).

And the annoyance brought from the player base also deteriorated the game’s reputation and overall play-ability. Always harsh cracks and disrespect based on what fictional team you were. Players would be threaten, called ‘retarded’, or even have their property destroyed for being on an “enemy team.” (according to a redditor on a /r/pokemongo thread). People who were taking the game and its teams way too seriously; people devoting every second to this game (working out isn’t done with every free hour of your day); people neglecting other things in life simply because they want to brag that their Blastoise is stronger. Mix this awful, confused, and allured audience with a game that is relatively broken, barren, and simply boring, and you get a very great concept that rode upon hype and died surely enough.

The recent figures for the game have come out: Pokemon GO by Niantic has lost over 15 million active players in just one month. And I think the reasons are reflected here in the editorial. Pokemon GO was a great concept, but a rushed release of a buggy game with an over-involved and addicted audience destroyed all that this mobile game had going for it.

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Jake Brunton is a computer science and IT student, who writes technology and gaming articles for EWTNet, and is the Head of Development and Co-founder of EWTNet. He writes poetry, sings, and enjoys anime in his free time, among other things that are modestly enjoyable.

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