When hype gives you lemons, you Pokémon GO make lemonade
If you’re a regular reader of the Gemr blog and/or This Week In Hype, you might be surprised I haven’t talked about Pokémon GO.
This past month has probably seen the most Pokémon GO news since the revolutionary mobile game swept the world last summer. Following a massive anniversary event in Chicago, the game has at long last been updated to include legendary Pokémon and raid battles. Yes, raid battles! Trainers can now team up with groups of friends and strangers in their area to launch an all-out assault on gargantuan Pokémon like Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, nabbing lots of sweet loot and maybe even those legendary monsters along the way. Never before has the Pokémon series seen this kind of large-scale cooperative gameplay, and watching it in action is definitely worth a full dose of weekly hype.
At least, that’s what I would say if all were right in the world. As a massive Pokémon fan who immediately fell in love with the concept of Pokémon GO, I feel it’d be disingenuous to unabashedly talk about Pokémon GO with all that’s happened with the game. So yes, this week’s hype is going to be all about Pokémon GO, but allow me to explain.
First of all, let’s talk about that big anniversary event in Chicago. Namely the fact that it was a disaster.
Those aren’t my words, that’s what people who attended said. To sum up about a week’s worth of news stories, the Chicago Grant Park event that attracted over 20000 attendees for a day of playing Pokémon GO had one tiny shortcoming: no one could play Pokémon GO. Server and connection issues plagued the game for virtually everyone at the event, and the crowd’s frustration turned towards the main stage as designated speakers appeared to talk.
“We can’t play!” chanted players as presenters tried to discuss the game.
Now, some of the snarkier ones among us might say something like “oh, server issues? It’s like the game’s launch all over again!” But really, isn’t it kind of a big deal that the game is having the same problems after a year of being in the wild? I’m not going to pretend that upkeep on a game as popular as Pokémon GO is an easy thing. Yet when your game is one of the most popular titles on mobile platforms and you’re throwing a big party all about playing the game, having the thing work is kind of a minimum requirement. This was the time for the game to win over lapsed players with positive hype and press, and they failed pretty spectacularly.
I’ll confess right now that I am one of those lapsed players. I, like a ton of people months after launch, got disenchanted with the game as its quality of life features got worse and not better. Yet every time I get the itch to give the game another chance, player communities on Reddit and other websites paint a sobering picture of the state of affairs.
“This app is nowhere near production grade” writes one player, whose post has garnered 1407 upvotes in the past two weeks. “This community is at a point where people write appreciation threads for the most basic QOL improvements.”
“If Nintendo/Game Freak scrapped Pokemon Go and started over entirely with another company I’d be perfectly fine with that. Even if it meant starting from level 1 again,” writes another, with 2510 upvotes to date.
These comments make me look at Pokémon GO in a different light these days. When I see the numerous Youtube advertisements for the legendary raid battles I described up top, my reaction is less hype and more “really?” I mean these raid battles were the climax of the original trailer for the game, and we’re finally getting this feature after a year? Pokémon fans deserve better than this. I know that the active player base for the game is still massive, and if you’re one of the fans, I’ve got no beef with you. Even if the underlying game can still be fun, this is a game that really should be better at this point. A “real life” Pokémon game has been a pipe dream for fans since the 90s, and Niantic really needs to grasp the enormity of that fact.
Now, some of you may say that this shouldn’t matter that much since Pokémon GO is a spinoff. Mainline games like Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are still coming out, and they’re as good as they’ve ever been. Still, whether we like it or not, Pokémon GO is a major face of the brand. The game has attracted tons of players who haven’t played Pokémon since Red and Blue, or have never played Pokemon at all! It doesn’t have to be like the mainline games, but it should at least display a similar amount of polish.
So yeah, that’s why I just can’t muster that much hype for Pokémon GO. Maybe I’m in the wrong ear, or maybe I just need to listen to different players. Man, this is the second week where I’ve been unhyped now. Can we queue the cute Eeveelution gifs so this blog doesn’t feel like a total downer?
Ahh, all feels right once again in this world.