“Pokemon Go is dead. People still play that?”
I hear this a lot. And honestly, I get it. When Niantic released Pokemon Go in 2016, it seemed like a groundbreaking augmented reality mobile game featuring one of the most popular video game franchises ever created. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t very robust when it first came out. It launched with the original 151 Pokemon (minus Mew and Mewtwo), had a confusing and unforgiving gym system, and well… that’s about it. While the marketing material promised exciting interactions with cool Pokemon like Gyarados, the reality was that you just caught the same three Pokemon over and over and over, grinding away for XP.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you abandoned the game at some point in the last 12 months (or maybe you gave up on it even sooner). I’m happy to report that while the initial craze has definitely died down, Pokemon Go still has millions of daily players (and still rakes in millions of dollars in microtransactions). So it’s probably not going anywhere.
This article will highlight many of the changes and additions in the game, which now finally feels like what Pokemon Go should have been all along. The game isn’t perfect (there still is no sign of trading or peer-to-peer battling, plus a distinct lack of an in-game communication tool), but it’s A LOT better than release day. Here are 12 reasons you should consider reinstalling Pokemon Go on your phone.
12. More Pokemon!
We’ll start with the obvious. Since the game’s release, almost all of the Pokemon from the Johto and Hoenn regions have been released into the game. In layman’s terms, that’s Generations II and III from the original games. In practical terms, that’s an extra 200 pocket monsters for you to catch, evolve, and raid for. Whether you’re a hardcore Pokemon fan and know all of these new species, or you’re just discovering many of these creatures for the first time, nothing beats the thrill of adding a new Pokemon to your pokedex.
Some of the new Pokemon are still only available in certain parts of the world (more on that in a minute), and some still require beating raids. But the wider variety of creatures to catch adds more diversity into the game. And Niantic will surly add Generation IV before too long, along with the recently released Alolan variants.
11. Complete Gym Revamp!
Roughly one year after Pokemon Go was released, Niantic completely overhauled the gym system. While hardcore players complained, the new system is much more friendly to casual players. Here’s a breakdown: the previous system allowed a maximum of 10 Pokemon to be in a gym, and allowed duplicate species. That meant you often came across daunting towers of extremely tough-to-beat Pokemon, causing many trainers to skip the gym experience.
The new system doesn’t allow duplicates, and you don’t need an army of Dragonites to beat an opposing team’s gym. It’s also a lot easier to earn Pokecoins in the new system, something was almost impossible under the old system for anyone not dedicating a couple hours per days to battling. More coins means the ability to buy things like storage increases and egg incubators, removing some of the old limits on the game for free-to-play players.
The new gym system features “motivation,” which slowly decays over time. A gym full of unmotivated Pokemon is easy to beat, while six fully motivated monsters will take a bit more effort. If you have Pokemon defending a gym, you can increase their motivated by feeding them berries — there’s even an option to do this remotely, as well!
10. Buddy System
Unless you quit in the first few months, you may remember the buddy system implemented in September 2016. It’s quite simple, really. You get to choose one Pokemon as your buddy, and you earn candy for accumulating kilometers walked. It’s a slow process for some, but some creatures are especially rare and hard to find. Catching a Larvitar in the wild will only net you a handful of candies, but you need 125 candies to evolve it into a full-grown Tyranitar.
There are also a few Pokemon who require 400 (!) candies in order to evolve them. Setting a Magikarp, Wailmer, or Swablu as your buddy can really help speed up that slow grind. At least this system means you can eventually get the candy you need, if you’re willing to put in the steps.
9. Daily Streaks
Despite being one of the best download mobile games of all time, Pokemon Go was slow to implement many of the same features that made other games so successful. One of the most popular game mechanics in mobile is a reward for playing daily, with an even larger reward for reaching a milestone like seven days in a row, or an entire month.
Niantic finally took the hint (after months of complaining that the game wasn’t exactly packed full of content) and introduced daily streaks for catching a Pokemon and spinning a pokestop. The daily rewards were extra XP and stardust, with a big boost in rewards for reaching seven days in a row (including a special evolution item that rarely drops otherwise). The daily streaks have been a welcome addition, and this concept was expanded in Spring 2018 when daily quests were added (more on that in a minute).
8. Community Days
In 2018, Niantic decided to up their game once again. They announced the start of Community Days, which would take place once a month. On that day (which is actually only a span of about three hours), they flood the world with extra spawns of a single special Pokemon. They also tack on things like bonus XP or extra stardust, but the real crown jewel of these days is the increased chance of catching a shiny Pokemon.
Shiny Pokemon are ultra rare in Pokemon Go. Although they have no purpose other than cosmetic appearance, they are highly valued in a game that is primarily about collecting digital creatures. I’ve seen first hand the impact of these community days, as local parks are filled with Pokemon trainers (both young and old) enjoying the great outdoors. There’s also an exclusive attack move available each Community Day — it’s not that much more useful than any other attack move, but it’s a fun collectible.
7. Continued Special Events
Some events are better than others, but there’s always something either ongoing, or just around the corner, in Pokemon Go. Whether it’s an increase in the heart-shaped Luvdisc for Valentine’s Day, special egg hatches during Easter, or bonus candy rewards during Halloween, there’s plenty of things to keep trainers interested. There have also been infrequent safari events, where trainers can capture Pokemon that previously only appeared in other parts of the world.
The events usually last anywhere from a weekend or a couple weeks, and are timed nicely to keep the flow of the game going. When Generation III Pokemon were released, it was an event to itself, as the world was flooded with Hoeen Pokemon for a little while. There will likely be another big event for the two-year anniversary of Pokemon Go in Summer 2018, plus multiple smaller events until then.
6. Raid Systems
In July 2017, over a year after the game had been released, Niantic introduced the players to their new Raid System. Certain Pokemon would “take over” gyms and require trainers to form a group in order to defeat it, offering a chance to catch it afterwards. While some Raids can be beaten by a solo trainer, the real attraction to the new system was the inclusion of legendary Pokemon and other super strong attackers, like Tyranitar and Alakazam.
So far, over a dozen regular legendary Pokemon have been released through the Raid System (Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Lugia, Entei, Raikou, Suicune, Groudon, Kyogre, Rayquaza, Latios, Latias, and Regice). These raids require teamwork, which means a lot of communities have started Facebook groups, Whatsapp chats, or Discord servers in order to coordinate. If you still play the game, or are interested in picking it back up, search out a local Pokemon Go community near you — it almost certainly exists somewhere.
5. EX Raids
Mewtwo is one of the most powerful and popular Pokemon in the entire pokedex. Everyone knew that it wasn’t something you would just find lurking in the bushes of your local park. Niantic needed to carefully released Mewtwo in a way that made him special, but still obtainable. After a bit of a choppy start, I now think the EX Raid system is working well.
In short, certain gyms (public parks and sponsored locations) are eligible to host EX Raids, where Mewtwo will spawn. These Raids can only be entered with a special invite, given out in a bit of a lottery system to anyone who has raided at that location in the previous week or so. There’s still an element of chance involved, but if you find out where your local EX Raids have taken place and frequent those gyms, there’s a good chance you will receive an invite soon. Personally, I’ve had 12 of these invites so far. Some critics claim the EX Raid system is a pay-to-win system, but I only ever use my free daily raid pass or ones I buy with freely earned Pokecoins. In other words, it’s not that hard to catch Mewtwo without spending a dime.
4. Weather System
In December 2017, Niantic added another fun wrinkle into Pokemon Go — a weather system that loosely coincides with what is actually happening outside. The seven weather types (clear, rainy, partly cloudy, cloudy, windy, snowy, and foggy) each correspond to a certain Pokemon type (fire, plant, poison, fairy, etc). So when it’s sunny out, there’s an increased chance of finding a Charmander, for example. When it’s windy, rare Pokemon like Bagon or Beldum are slightly more common. These so-called “weather boosted” Pokemon come with increased stats and also bonus stardust.
In addition to creature spawns, the weather system also provides a boost to corresponding attack moves (example: dragon moves do more damage in windy weather) and will increase the strength of raid bosses. For example, a Machamp raid boss will get a boost of about 400 CP extra when caught in cloudy weather. That coveted Mewtwo will be stronger when it’s windy. This system can affect your battle plans, as you may want to load up on ice Pokemon if you’re trying to take down a gym in the snow.
3. New Items
You may remember the evolution items introduced when Gen II Pokemon came out, but now there are even more cool items to collect and use. They are exclusively obtained through completing raids, but the addition of Golden Razz Berries, Rare Candies, and Technical Machines are a welcome addition to the game.
The Golden Razz Berry has two uses: snagging an extremely hard-to-catch Pokemon who refuses to stay in the pokeball (like any legendary) and restoring one of your gym defenders to full motivation (which can now be done remotely, as well). The Rare Candy can be converted into any candy type of your choice, great for powering up your rare monsters or using to obtain about candy to evolve a rare Pokemon and completing your pokedex.
Technical Machines (TM, for short) are straight out of the original games. They can be used to teach your Pokemon either a new quick move or a new charge move. Every Pokemon has a short list of potential attacks, and some are definitely better than others. If you want your Pokemon to be as strong as possible, using a TM to teach them the right move sets is definitely a part of it.
Here’s another recent feature added to the game, but sadly only for those who use an iPhone to play. Niantic used Apple’s new ARKit features to add something they called AR+ to the game. While it’s not mandatory, it’s a fun quirk that lets you actually get closer to the Pokemon you’re trying to catch and earn an “Expert Handler” bonus, earning extra XP and stardust.
Previously, trainers who left the AR part of the game on would just see their Pokemon float on screen in front of whatever their phone camera was capturing in the background. With AR+, the Pokemon stays in the same spot, allowing you to get closer (or farther) and get unique screenshots.
A similar system is planed for Android devices, but there is not announced date for its release. In the meantime, a lot of trainers continue to play without any AR in the catch screen at all — it’s just quicker. But hey, at least the option to get up close and personal with your favorite Pokemon exists now.
The most recent addition is perhaps one of the biggest ones yet for Pokemon Go. In March 2018, Niantic introduced a quest system they are calling “Field Research.” Basically, the game now gives trainers random objectives (eg: Hatch two eggs, spin 10 Pokestops, catch five Dragon-type Pokemon) that can be completed to earn stamps. As you progress through the tasks, you’ll be rewarded with items or even special Pokemon encounters.
The reward for an entire weeks worth of stamps continues to change on a monthly basis, but so far trainers have been able to catch the legendary bird trio and a special Snorlax from their research adventures.
A slightly different quest line, called “Special Research,” will come directly from Professor Willow. This is as close as Pokemon Go gets to a storyline, as a series of specific quests must be completed in order to catch a very special pokemon — Mew! Another series of Special Research is coming in Summer 2018, and may reward trainers with the mythical pokemon Celebi upon completion.
Pokemon Go had a rough launch in 2016, there’s no doubt about it. But almost two years later, the game looks and plays completely different from that initial effort. If you were excited about Pokemon Go in those early days, but quickly became disappointed with how little the game had to offer and abandoned it, we suggest you give it one more try — you might be pleasantly surprised.