Here Are Our Hopes And Fears For Pokémon Go
This morning, Nintendo and Pokémon developer Game Freak announced a partnership with Niantic Labs to release a Pokémon game with aspirations beyond those of anything Pokémon has done in the mobile space so far.
Pokémon Go is based loosely on the not widely known but successful mobile game, Ingress from Niantic Labs. Ingress has more than one million active users as of May 2014, and is played by physically visiting real-world locations and interacting with virtual portals. Competing teams can coordinate across the globe in order to be successful at the game, and it looks as though Pokémon Go will be borrowing many of these mechanics.
Something similar to Ingress using the Pokémon license seems like a solid overlap, and could be close to the Pokémon MMORPG fans have been dreaming of for years. We’re excited about the game, but also wary of the final product. Here are our hopes and fears for the final product.
Use the core Pokémon mechanics
We hope Niantic will use the Pokémon license in interesting ways inspired by what has worked well with Ingress. We also hope that Niantic doesn’t ignore what makes Pokémon fun in favor of pure collection. Building a team, or a collection of teams, and working with them to make them strong enough to take on all competitors is a huge aspect of Pokémon’s appeal. The trailer for the game shows a team capturing a Charizard, but I hope catching a Charmander and evolving it up to a Charizard is also an option.
Embrace the core hook
Go’s hook is the act of leaving your house to hunt down Pokémon, and it should fully embrace that. Pokémon should be regionalized and difficult to track down. I shouldn’t be able to walk outside and find a Legendary in my backyard. In fact, it would be interesting if Legendary Pokémon were tied to specific landmarks. It would be cool if the only way to get Arceus, for example, would be to visit Mount Rushmore. The trailer for the game teased this with trainers working to get a Mewtwo in Times Square, New York.
Ghost Pokémon only come out at night
This is a self-explanatory wish for the game. Hopefully the game buys into Pokémon’s often strange fiction in great detail and includes aspects like this. Ghost Pokémon only coming out at night is an easy one.
Real-world gym leaders
Ingress is all about building a community within your team, and implementing a gym-leader system in Go could help reward its most vigilant players, while encouraging everyone to seek each other out. The best players could be in charge of certain regions and have a quota of badges they must give out every month or so. Assorted gaming conventions like PAX have implemented something like this establishing gym leaders for players to fight against and receive badges, and this could be an extension of that idea.
Easily the biggest fear in just about any free-to-play game is how monetization will be handled. We know the game will be free-to-play, like its cousin Ingress, but we’re not sure how microtransactions will be integrated. Will you have to buy each Pokéball you throw? It would make sense in the context of the Pokémon world – buying Pokéballs – but would the richest players just buy expensive bundles of Master Balls and never even bother with combat? Pokémon is a huge franchise with fans excited to play with it on mobile, and its fan base will spend money on it.
Too many gesticulations
The trailer for the game shows people pantomiming the act of throwing a Pokéball for every capture and release. On video, one could argue it looks cool and exciting (I won’t), but in practice it could mean its most active players will be running around in public flailing their arms at invisible monsters to confused passersby. It might not be the best way to promote the game.
Burying the traditional Pokémon experience
I appreciate Pokémon as a fun, single-player experience with some social components like battling and trading your beasts. With the impressive numbers boasted by the mobile platform, Pokémon Go has the potential to be a huge success for all parties involved, but I sincerely hope it doesn’t replace the core Pokémon experience. No matter how successful it is, I don’t want it to be the future of the franchise. Sometimes, I just want to sit stationary by myself in my home, explore a world, and collect and train creatures, and I hope that aspect of Pokémon doesn’t change.
The only way to get a Klefki is by visiting a prison
Hopefully the only way to catch a Klefki isn’t by visiting a prison, where keys are considered to be especially valuable. Also, I hope the only places to find fire Pokémon are not the insides of volcanoes. I imagine the folks over at Niantic will think those sorts of mechanics all the way through, but I just want to get that out there just to make sure.
Leaning too heavily on augmented reality
The trailer for the game showcases Pokémon in an augmented-reality setting. Aspiring trainers can see Pokémon in the real world through the lens of the camera in their phone. I’ve spent some time with Invizimals on PSP (an augmented reality, Pokémon-inspired game) as well as Pokémon Dream Radar on 3DS (an augmented-reality accompaniment to Pokémon Black and White 2) and the effect, while charming, wears thin quickly. It should certainly be in the game, but much like the act of throwing a Pokéball, I hope it is not required to play.
For more on Niantic Lab, head here.