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Pokemon GO: What will it take to keep it alive?

Pokemon GO captured the hearts of mobile gamers across the world, but what will it take to keep the game alive?

Pokemon GO has been out for almost a month now, and already some players might be noticing that the game has been losing steam. In my neighborhood alone several players I have been in contact have told me that meetups and gym-hopping has been slowing down as of late. This got me thinking: what will it take to keep this game running as long as other mobile games such as Candy Crush or Angry Birds?

In this article we'll be taking a look at Pokemon GO, and how Niantic can keep this game populated for years to come.

Pokemon GO at a glance...

Since its release on July 6th, Pokemon GO has been installed on over 30,000,000 phones as of July 19th. The install count likely doesn't include APK installs, and as such we can very well imagine the installations of Pokemon GO are much higher than this. It also makes Pokemon GO more popular than the Twitter app, Tinder, and even pornography.

The game currently features most of generation one of the Pokemon series (national dex 1-151), and allows players to travel to virtually anywhere in the world to capture Pokemon. The game is also one of the few free to play games where players can get away with not paying a single penny to get the full experience. There are no limitations on Pokemon caught in one day, Pokeballs can be found at PokeStops for free all over the world, and the only paid transactions are for inventory extensions that aren't really required to fully enjoy the game.

All of these facts should mean that Pokemon GO should last for a good long time. But then why are some players leaving the game?

Pokemon GO has issues it needs to fix

It's difficult to deny that Pokemon GO is a fun game. Catching Pokemon, interacting with other players in real life, and just the overall chaos that the game can sometimes cause can only be described as heartwarming for die hard Pokemon fans. Nevertheless, the game does have its issues - some that can leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those who run into them more often than others.

Server issues...

One of the biggest issues with Pokemon GO so far is that it is constantly crashing. When the app itself isn't causing trouble with players' phones, servers are crashing or having connection issues. This is thanks in part due to the sheer popularity of the app as the servers are barely able to handle the number of players playing at any given time.

Most of the times this error comes in the form of a spinning Pokeball at the top-left of the screen. Whenever this appears, players will be unable to find Pokemon or PokeStops. This severely hampers the gameplay experience, and as such some players have sworn off the game until fixes are made. (But if you don't want to be one of them, we have plenty of guides to dealing with server crashes, Pokeball freezes, and other common issues in the game.)

We barely have 151 of the 721 Pokemon available

For further reading, GameSkinny writer  has compiled a list of the Pokemon missing in Pokemon GO.

That's right. There are 721 Pokemon as of Generation VI, and that's without counting the Pokemon being added in Pokemon Sun and Moon. In Pokemon GO, however, there are only 145 Pokemon available.

In short, Pokemon GO is missing 576 of the 721 Pokemon available in the main series.

It should be noted that Pokemon GO is still only in version 0.29.3. That means that the current iteration of Pokemon GO hasn't even reached its first publicly declared stable version, as it would instead be marked as version 1.0. In essence, despite being publicly released, Pokemon GO is - for better or for worse - technically still in its beta stages.

We still don't have the ability to trade Pokemon

Trading your Pokemon has been a feature ever since Pokemon Red and Green (as well as Blue outside of Japan). By trading Pokemon, players were able to complete their Pokedex by giving away Pokemon that were exclusive to their game to other players in order to receive Pokemon that were not available in their own.

Pokemon GO does not have the ability to trade. In fact, Pokemon GO doesn't have any restrictions on catchable Pokemon either. There are some Pokemon that are region exclusive, but even then they can be obtained via egg hatching. These include:

  • Farfetch'd - exclusive to Asia
  • Kangaskhan - exclusive to Australia/New Zealand
  • Mr. Mime - Europe
  • Tauros - North America

Since all Pokemon can be caught in Pokemon GO regardless of where you live, this doesn't seem like such a big problem. However, the next problem is affected by where you live.

Barren areas and GPS issues in Pokemon GO

If you live in rural areas or smaller urban areas, chances are you have this problem. You go outside for a nice day of Pokemon catching, only to find out there are no Pokemon, no PokeStops, or even Pokemon Gyms near you. While there's still opportunities to catch Pokemon, chances are that if you're not living in the city, you'll be missing out on 2/3rds of the game.

What can Niantic do to extend the lifespan of Pokemon GO?

There are many improvements that Niantic can make to Pokemon GO to make the game not only more fun for players, but also to extend the lifespan of the game in general. Below are some of the possibilities...

Add the Johto Pokedex!

Baby steps are important to ensuring that a mobile game stays stable, and considering Pokemon GO's already poor stability in terms of servers, the game shouldn't just jump to including all six generations of Pokemon from the get go. Adding Generation II's Johto Pokedex is a good start. Johto added 100 new Pokemon to the game -- and while it won't make a dent in the franchise-wide roster, it would extend the lifespan of the game.

More Pokemon to catch means more trainers returning to the game. Players are already completing the Kanto Pokedex, so Niantic's going to need to step up their game if they're planning on keeping trainers around.

Bring in the Trades!

Trading Pokemon is a key feature in the main series since the beginning. To not have the trade option available in Pokemon GO is therefore a sin against the main series. Niantic is currently planning to add this feature into the game in a later update, but it may be a case of too little too late.

Most players already have a good amount of registered Pokemon in their Pokedex, and so trading won't have that significant of an impact. Hopefully this trade feature will be released alongside the Johto Pokedex update.

Better battle systems

Battles are another important part of the Pokemon experience. While Gym Battles in Pokemon GO are a nice feature, they only resemble the main series battles in their most basic form. While it's unlikely that Niantic will change up the battle formula in Pokemon GO anytime soon, it would be neat if they at least added the ability to battle Pokemon Trainers in real time.

I mean, seriously... How cool would it be to tell someone beside you that you like shorts because they're easy to wear, and then have a Pokemon Battle right on the spot?

Add the ability to suggest PokeStops

Right now, Pokemon GO has no ability to add PokeStops in rural or other areas. Supposedly there was the ability to do so earlier, but now the support page results in a message that tells players that they can no longer suggest them. While I'm sure Niantic has its reasons for not letting players suggest them anymore, they are missing out on a fair number of players as a result.

I'm not convinced that Niantic will ever resolve this -- seeing as the small towns aren't exactly profitable -- but surely they don't have to outright forget about the little guys out there. I mean, even Red started from a small town before he became a Pokemon Master...

Boost the server capacities - now!

As stated earlier, Pokemon GO has a serious server stability issue. While I understand that the company likely did not expect the servers to be this fully loaded, it stands to reason that Niantic and The Pokemon Company should have prepared for the worst case scenario instead of a ballpark guess. This problem is perhaps one of the most pressing ones for the game, as each day they procrastinate on fixing the servers is one more day that players leave the game.

Add more trainer customization options!

One last thing Niantic could do to extend the lifetime of Pokemon GO - as well as a means of increasing profits - would be to implement some form of clothing shop in the game. This seems to be one of the highly requested improvements to the game as the ability to customize characters has become somewhat of a staple in the main series games.

What would you like to see in Pokemon GO?

Whether you have something or not, people are bound to complain about it. That much is known when it comes to video games nowadays. As such, I'm now giving the stage to you - the reader! What improvements would you like to see in Pokemon GO? Are there any obscure features you want in the game? Leave your opinions in the comments section below!

Published Jul. 28th 2016
  • Burak_5560
    Without proper battle like in previous games and type damages (which is strategical aspect) the game is dead.

    Without battle whats the meaning of traiding?just collectibles.

    Pokemon level up with candies should be capped;higher levels for common ones(ratata) and lower lvl hard cap for hard ones.

    Pokemon should level up with combat!.

    Pvp combat is missing like a huge whole in this game
  • topher339
    PokeGo is going to need a lot of change to keep its momentum going. It's getting stale, fast. Server issues need fixed, PokeStops need fixed, and the availability of Pokemon needs changed.

    I'm tired of being told to "try again later" by PokeStops. Servers have gotten better, though. However, I'm still pretty much only finding Pidgeys and Rattatas. It's getting old far too quickly. A more traditional battle system would be much appreciated and trading is a must.

    The key to keeping the game relevant will be rolling out updates somewhat frequently. Many people are dropping out of the game simply because it's the same thing day in and day out.
  • Ryan Gulliford
    Contributor
    Nice, in depth article! I'm confident the game will release new features and pokemon given some time, introducing a new generation every few months should keep the game fresh and exciting for a long time. Also things like trading should be added once servers become more stable :)
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    I'd really love to see this game get even bigger, and new generations would certainly be a great place to start. If all the features that I mentioned get added, I'm sure this game will be around for quite a long time. It'd be even better if they managed to tie it into the main series somehow.
  • Ryan Gulliford
    Contributor
    Absolutely! I am very excited for future generations especially and fitting it into the main series would be amazing. Personally I think the game was a much larger hit with the world than Niantic thought, so hopefully it'll remain a top game for a long time.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    I've heard some whispers from the active Ingress players and they all seem to say Niantic really didn't care about customer feedback and did not put much work into the game throughout its life. The big difference though is Ingress was never making $2million a day, so we have to assume Niantic will be doing a lot more with Pokemon Go. Time will tell though. All of your suggestions are pretty awesome and if you check out the Pokemon Go subreddit, it's covered in cool suggestions too.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    I hope Niantic pays attention. The game's great, and it could become a serious cash cow if they decide to follow through. As you said: time will tell.

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