Pokémon GO’s latest update, which adds baby Gen 2 Pokémon to the egg hatching lottery, has been seen a…mixed reception among fans. While there are defenders of the game who will praise any “free” update the game gets, others are disappointed by the fact that this reveal was a lot less than they were hoping for, as many predicted the release of Legendary Birds or Mewtwo, or a full Gen 2 launch. Others aren’t too happy about the way this new addition to the game works in practice.
I don’t want to rehash the first point again. Yes, I do think Niantic trapped themselves by promoting “new Pokémon” in the game and delivering anything less than Legendaries or a full Gen 2 roster, but I can understand why theoretically now isn’t the best time for either, given the season, and given that it’s still really only been five months since the release of the original game. I get why 100 new fully-animated Pokémon might not be ready for action yet, given everything else the still-small Niantic team has been working on.
But today I wanted to talk about the content of the update itself, namely the decision to only allow these new Pokémon to hatch from the existing egg system.
This is genuinely the first time I’ve felt that Niantic added something to the game that seemed explicitly “pay-to-win.”
Yes, it’s true that any player paying for incense and lures and XP eggs and such will have an overall leg up in every aspect of the game, from leveling to catching to battling. But there is no true “winning” in Pokémon GO because the goals are so nebulous and vary from person to person.
The goal is not nebulous with this new update. The goal is specifically to get these seven new baby Pokémon, and the only way to do that is to hatch them from eggs.
Previous events, from Halloween to Thanksgiving, revolved around simply playing the game. For Halloween, you could go outside and catch a bunch of Ghost Pokémon and get bonus candy for doing anything. For Thanksgiving, you could get double XP and randomly find a Ditto in the wild. Yes, buying stuff would “accelerate” your bonuses to a certain extent, but the content of the event was right there, waiting to be played.
This is not the case with egg hatching.
A free-to-play player who is only using one incubator is at an enormousdisadvantage over someone like me who is using nine incubators, if their goal is the hatch these baby Pokémon. Each additional incubator they buy will directly increase their chance of getting these new baby Pokémon from anywhere from 2x to 9x because of how many eggs they can be incubating simultaneously.
This is new territory for Pokémon GO. They have never structured an update so that it gives such a clear advantage to paying players before. And with relatively low hatch rates on these baby Pokémon, which appear in now-rare 2 km and 10 km eggs as well as common 5 km eggs, F2P players could walk until their feet bleed and they still might never find one. Going through one egg at a time to try and find these egg-only Pokémon is a brutal process. Previously, eggs were just bonuses to find elusive Pokémon you hadn’t seen in the wild or to get lots of candy for others. But here, making eggs the only way to get these new Pokémon, is something that is essentially grabbing players by the collar and screaming “Buy incubators!” into their face.
In addition to heavily favoring paying players, I simply don’t think this is a very good addition to the game in its current form. Using the existing egg system, by simply inserting these baby Pokémon into the “loot pool” is a poor way to increase engagement during a time when the game desperately needs it.
Pokémon Go has expanded to a new region about once a month, launching in Southeast Asia and Oceania back in August, parts of the Balkans and Central Asia in September and some of the Middle East in November. Today, the game is finally opening in India and these South Asian countries: Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
In a post announcing the expansion, Niantic specifically apologized to their Indian fanbase, citing “a few administrative challenges” that delayed the launch. Players in the country won’t just have Starbucks hotspots, either: regional LTE mobile network operator Reliance Jio has made 3,000 of their stores and partner locations into PokéStops and Gyms. This mobile provider partnership shouldn’t be a surprise, as Niantic partnered with over 10,000 Sprint stores last week to provide American users with the same hotspot action.