While many Pokemon Go players were expecting Niantic to roll out the entire catalogue of Gen II Pokemon this month, adding the likes of Chikorita, Spinarak, and Mareep, the reality was a little more disappointing. The company has only added six baby critters (and a Santa hat for Pikachu) and hidden them inside rare eggs that require the player to walk between 2km and 10km before they hatch.
The new arrivals (Pichu, Cleffa, Elekid, Igglybuff, Smoochum, Magby, and Togepi) are "pre-evolutions", with all but the latter monster evolving into Gen I Pokemon. It might all sound a bit piecemeal on paper but this month's mini-update makes a lot of sense going forward.
Let's take a look at how Niantic might try to add more Pokemon and appeal to more players in the future, using examples from some of the more popular apps on the Play and App Stores.
Themed events are one of the best ways to get a flagging user base back on board. Angry Birds Seasons, Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift, and Doodle Jump Christmas all offer something new during the festive season, while Terraria includes new decorations and a special pet for players booting the 2D sandbox up at Christmas.
Niantic has a perfect opportunity to introduce two second-gen Pokemon (Stantler and Delibird) this Christmas. As the former is a reindeer and the latter is a red penguin, a festive "Catch the Delibird"-type event is a no-brainer. There's also potential for including gifts (like extra consumables) in Pokestops or as a reward for sending monsters to Professor Oak.
Pokemon Go's in-game economy currently is - to put it bluntly - rubbish. Players can't sell or trade excess items, the returns from trading in monsters to Professor Oak aren't worth the guilt of wondering exactly how he turns them into candy, and it's not always easy to replenish Pokeballs and Lucky Eggs without resorting to the cash shop, especially in rural areas.
With the above in mind, Pokemon Go can involve a lot of repetition, microtransactions and "grinding" just to keep the game moving along. Niantic has promised a trading-based update in the future but it's a little surprising that commerce in Pokemon Go is so limited, given that it at least plays a small part in Niantic's previous title, Ingress.
Pokemon Go is a rare example of innovation on the App and Play Stores but new ideas need to be more of a running theme than a one-time occurrence in a saturated market. Developers for another kind of gaming app genre, casino games, realised that early on.
For example, the ongoing popularity of casino brands owes a great deal to the most prominent ones' diverse and flexible payment options. For instance, mFortune allows players to make their slots deposit by phone bill. A policy of creating games in-house also gives this casino provider the freedom to tailor their titles to fans' tastes.
While Niantic is a little hamstrung by the restrictive payment methods allowed by Google and Apple, the addition of niche options like mFortune's, above, could open up the game to markets in other parts of the world. A good example is supporting cryptocurrencies, which offer benefits to players in developing markets like Brazil and China.
Earlier this year, the mobile game Fallout Shelter introduced missions that had the player arrange squads of survivors and venture out into the Wasteland for the first time. There was nothing revolutionary about each adventure (defeat so many mole rats and radroaches or rescue somebody from Raiders) but the missions added variety to a game that never really moved beyond the one screen.
Adding daily challenges to Pokemon Go would offer far more of an incentive to go outside than anything in the game at present. For example, players might need to help Officer Jenny catch four Zubats in a particular geographical area for a special item or visit every Pokestop in a small town before Team Rocket does.
As a final point, and despite all the above, it could be argued that Niantic has got its collective head screwed on, especially as far as a gradual release of Pokemon is concerned. It makes far more sense to keep player numbers consistent with tiny updates than release everything at once for a huge but unsustainable spike in traffic.
The app certainly has a future - as long as it can keep delivering content.
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