With Pokémon Go enjoying a burst of renewed popularity, many gamers will be returning to Niantic’s collect-em-up. I never left, although I’m still wondering why.
112. That was the magic number.
OK, maybe not that magical. A little bit magical, though.
Yeah, that seems about right.
You see, up until this week, 112 was the number of Pokémon I’d collected in Pokémon Go. A fair way to the 151 in the first release, although there’s a small number of Pokémon who are unique to just one global location.
Here in Australia, that’s the Kangaskhan. Don’t ask me about Kangaskhan. They’re so common here I barely even bother catching them any more. That’s possibly heresy to any fans of the game from overseas locales. Such is life.
There was very little avoiding Pokémon Go in 2016. The AR game was an absolute mobile sensation, with global popularity at a level so high that when it launched here in Australia ahead of the US, countless hordes snuck their way in… which made playing the game all but impossible because the servers kept crashing all the time. This was especially frustrating if, like me, you were in a small regional location, because the game is much harder to play when few actual Pokémon spawn where you are.
Anyway, I started playing Pokémon Go not because I’m a lifelong fan of the series, but simply because I have kids who are. It seemed like a nice, social way to go on walks with them, and so I did. I did (and do) rather appreciate the fact that while Niantic have made oodles of cash out of the game, it’s not so IAP-ridden (or it wasn’t – more on this in a minute) that you had to spend money to continue playing. Spending could make things easier, but it wasn’t mandatory.
I rather quickly fell into a simple habit of Pokémon Go playing. I’d play a little on my walk between where I park my car to walk to the station each morning, and again in the afternoon on the walk back. My train trips are strictly work time, by arrangement.
On weekends I might dabble in the app, and on school holidays, or picking kids up from the same train station after their school days were over, I might hand the phone to them to catch a few more. Very slowly indeed, my numbers grew. No Pokémon spawn near my home, so I’m not in the lucky position of being able to scan for them at home, so Pokémon Go has been a purely mobile experience for me.
All of that adds up to… 112.
Which isn’t, I admit, very many.
I have friends who have collected every Pokémon it’s feasible to collect, and plenty more who dabbled for a bit, enjoyed it for a short time, and then gave up. Of the friends who persevered, I’m not aware of any who didn’t either use crowdsourced maps, back-engineered maps for spawning points or hacks to make the game think they were in specific locations in order to secure those more eluside Pokémon.
I’m not going to judge them, because fun is a terribly subjective matter, as is how we spend our leisure time. I have friends who have used mapping tools and spent far more time than I have catching their prey. That’s a level of dedication that I simply don’t have, not to mention a level of time that’s beyond me.
But using maps or hacks wasn’t the way I wanted to play, so I didn’t. It felt wrong to me, because the point and oft-stated inspiration for these games was random discovery and the joy it could bring.
Also possibly making millions of dollars off multiple generations of school kids, but that’s quite probably beside the point.
As soon as it’s not random, it’s essentially geocaching with Pokémon prizes.
Instead, I’ve essentially played it in a brute force manner. If I spot something and catch it, all the well, but that means endless grinding through Pidgeys, Zubats and Nidorans along the way. If it shows up, it shows up. A Chancey did the other day; the first and only one I’ve ever seen.
Of that original 151, I’ve caught my 112, seen a further 20 (although my understanding is that this includes gyms, where I couldn’t have caught them, but they somehow “count”) and then there’s a final 19 I’ve never seen at all. Not once. Never. If other people I know hadn’t caught them, I might suspect they don’t exist.
I mentioned my approach to a friend who’s remained passionate about the game, and he looked at me like I had two heads.
Maybe I do, and one of them is ridiculously stubborn. I could go down the path of using loophole abuse to get more of the creatures, or for that matter pay Niantic to make things a little easier with lures and lucky eggs and whatnot.
That’s more time than I want to put into Pokémon Go, however, not to mention more money. At this stage I’m more inclined to spend money on Pokecoins because I’ve played a fair bit of this game and mostly enjoyed it rather than because I want a specific advantage.
Then this week’s update hit, and suddenly there are 232 to catch. On the plus side, my numbers have gone up, because that 112 is suddenly 135 as fresh crops of Marills, Sentrets, Hoothoots and Ledybas pop up all over the place.
I even have #232, Donphan. I’ve got a soft spot for armoured elephants for some reason.
Side thought: I wonder if all the Pidgeys are seriously peeved now, because nobody’s going to even give them a second look? Then again, maybe it’s Pidgey Party time, because they can get on with their birdy existences without being pestered by Pokémon trainers.
It does make me wonder if new players get a boost in their Pokémon Storage, because the default quantity probably isn’t going to cut it between holding Pokémon and having a few spares around for evolving and battling. If they haven’t upped that limit then you’d have to spend money to catch them all, but if they have, then those who have spent Pokecoins upgrading their storage can rightfully feel a little hard done by. Maybe that’s the point.
There’s definitely been an upswing in players, although I doubt it’ll hit its former frenzy any time soon. It also leaves me wondering where Niantic’s plans for the title are going. Almost everyone I know wants PvP battles (tough to implement, and with a limited and shrinking player base possibly a waste of resources) or Pokémon trading.
I’d welcome that, although I have a sneaking suspicion that when they do, it’ll also be monetised. Tough call, because developers have to eat and I’m sure both The Pokémon Company and Nintendo want their cut too.
Anything that makes the core catching game easier (because you could trade) would by necessity lead to a shorter endgame. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who thought the gym battles were much fun.
Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go for a walk, and see if I can’t get it up to 136. The Kidman way might be slow, but it’s also stubborn.