One fine Wednesday at the beginning of June 2016, we were bestowed upon one of the biggest leaps in mobile gaming ever: Niantic’s official launch of Pokémon GO. OH BUT NOT IF YOU WERE LIVING ANYWHERE OUTSIDE OF AMERICA, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND! There-in laid problem number one. Problem number two was the constant server crashes those players experienced. Though honestly, Niantic was simply not ready for such a big rush of players into their system and that was definitely why there was a roll-out rather than everyone flooding into Pokémon GO in that single day. I, like everyone else, paced back and forth waiting for that announcement saying that it would be playable in Southeast Asia, which only came exactly one month later.
The evening of August 6th 2016 was probably one of the only times me and my 3 siblings had all enjoyed a game together. The four of us walked over to the Telawi shopping area and were in for a big shock. I had never seen such buzz in Bangsar’s Telawi area either, not even on weekends. Squeals of joy could be heard when someone added a new Pokédex entry. Strangers talking to each other, exchanging information on where they found this Krabby or that Diglett. When do you ever see Malaysians willingly talk to other Malaysians they don’t know? It was an incredible sight.
But not too long after that, the hype died down drastically and only the strong few continued playing. I have no shame in admitting that I am one of these people. I have not willingly put away Pokémon GO (though I was forced to when I traveled to China) since its launch in Malaysia and I don’t think I will ever do so unless I go back to a country where it hasn’t launched. That definitely won’t be China though since they’re getting the game soon.
In all honesty, I do have my doubts in regards to certain aspects of the game. Most of it is really about playing in pedestrian-unfriendly Malaysia (how in the world am I expected to walk 2km much less 10km to hatch eggs unless I go to a park with a car?). Tough to really ‘get out and GO’ when you live in a country of malls and barely any proper sidewalks. Nonetheless, I still play on the daily, getting those sweet, sweet Stardust boosts with my daily catch reward. Here’s why I still play Pokémon GO:
1. It is my childhood
Now this may sound sad to hear, but I was never allowed to own any other console except Game Boys when I was growing up so that was all we had, including the original, that big, chunky grey one. So it was all Dragon Quest, Mario Kart, and Pokémon for me. The little exposure I had to Playstations or Xboxes was only when I went over to my cousin’s or friend’s houses. So due to that, I’ve played every single generation of Pokémon up until Generation 4 (Diamond/Pearl/Platinum) on the NDS.
So I’m all about those ‘Mons. I’ve become more excited to play since they started legendary raids and released Gen 3 (Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald). Rayquaza is my legendary bae. When we went to Tokyo, one of my first stops was to the Skytree Pokémon Centre and I immediately bought a Rayquaza and it is the best. I still have a Larvitar plush (my favourite non-legendary Pokémon) from when McDonalds had a run of plushies in conjunction with the release of Gen 2 (Gold/Silver). Or was it the release of season 2…
Anyway, here’s a random trivia you may not know: Since Pokémon Yellow, Pikachu has been the only Pokémon in-game that says its name rather than make a cry, and it stays true in Pokémon GO.
2. The Community
I will admit that when player numbers dropped, I was pretty much playing the game on my own. All but one of my friend's friend would play with me on outings and I would constantly be asked ‘Wow, you still play Pokémon GO?’ in which I would confidently respond with a single ‘Yep’ and nothing else. This had happened for many months.
But when raids were introduced, I’d find myself surrounded by tens of other players. I was in Taipei during the raid egg-glitch days and would instantly know when a raid is going on when I see tons of people just standing in a random spot looking at their phones. I’d walk over, turn my app on with a big smile on my face and see that everyone there was gathered for a Tyranitar raid. Even though I was obviously a foreigner, once someone saw me turning my app on they’d gesture for me to hurry over before I missed out on joining a raid group.
The love for Pokémon GO is still very strong in Japan. No matter what the raid was, even just a measly Magikarp, I’d always find at least 12 people waiting in the raid lobby. Not something you’d see here in Malaysia since everyone is only interested in higher Tier or Legendary raids, which is why my first and only Muk was caught in Tokyo and why there are still a few Gen 1 ‘Mons I haven’t caught because no one here wants to go to a Lapras raid with me :(
The latest update introduced AR+ for players who use iPhone 6S or newer and oh my good lawd is it amazing. Thanks to a partnership with Apple, the lucky few players (like me!) can experience how it would actually feel like catching ‘Mons in the real world. A short description I would give is that it’s quite akin to the handheld series’ Safaris.
When turned on, AR+ allows players to find ‘Mons in patches of grass on-screen. Once found, the Pokémon pops out with an ‘awareness’ meter and players can walk around it and try to walk up close to it to catch it with an additional ‘expert handler’ bonus. If the awareness meter fills up, the Pokemon will run away like an actual wild creature would if some random human is obviously coming up to it to capture it.
If you hear a squeal coming in the direction of a random girl squatting in the grass, that’s probably me. I already do that with Sun/Moon’s Pokémon Refresh. LOOK AT ME MA’, I’M PETTING THE ROCKRUFF AND IT LOVES ME!
Imagine if Niantic introduces that system to Pokémon GO…oh my.
4. Region exclusives = travel goals
I love traveling. I’m an adventurer at heart and this game gives me that extra reason to want to see the world. Going to Taiwan and finding Farfetch’d, flying over to Australia and immediately seeing a Kangaskhan spawn at the airport or seeing my family in Switzerland (halfie here) and Mr. Mime popping-up on the map. The need to catch a Tauros and finally complete my Gen 1 ‘Dex makes me want to go to America even more. Epic win if I find myself visiting California and catching a Heracross. Corsola seems to be the only exclusive we Malaysians got, but that’s cool. Now with Gen 3 regionals on the ‘Dex, the itch to visit New Zealand has come back strong since Relicanth has been discovered to only spawn there and over in Fiji. Those lucky hobbits!
Regional exclusives was a really good idea and while I do understand that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to travel, Niantic has already proven that they care about those players too with Safaris and Fests, even allowing some regionals to migrate to other regions for a short period of time. Malaysians even got Farfetch’d, the East Asian exclusive, and that was pretty cool of Niantic.
5. There is still hope
Despite all the spoofer issues, the constant updates with bugs and lack of content, my belief is that Pokémon GO is still in its child-stage (coz two-year-olds aren’t infants). Niantic knows the issues they face and the brilliant potential their game has. They have hinted that PVP and trading will be added to the game eventually, once they’ve quelled the spoofer problem. So once again, it’s not the developer but the players that are causing the game to not be as great as it could be.
I think people take hits at this game because a really bad habit of gamers nowadays is impatience and are many quite willingly naïve about how difficult and long the process is to make games for us to enjoy. What they want is great games now, but as we can very well see: that’s just not how it works. There’s a reason why Kingdom Hearts 3 is taking ages to arrive in our hands. Pokémon GO ushered in a new genre of games and while Niantic jumped on this silly developer trend of releasing a game well before it’s actually complete *cough*assassinscreedunity*cough* I think if they didn’t, they would still face a lot of the same problems they did at launch. Learn from your mistakes and become better, right?