Pokémon Go: How has it changed in five years

by | Oct 6, 2021 | Arts & Life

The global exploration app Pokémon Go has remained relatively popular since it launched in 2016. Niantic released the app in July of 2016 in the United States, and later expanded to a worldwide range a month later.

The Pokémon Go community was fervent, even in regions the app was locked to. Immediately upon the app’s release, Reddit user Lannic posted an .apk file of the game, sharing it worldwide. 

While this enabled users in all regions to play at launch, it caused massive server shutdowns throughout the first year of play. This did not stop points of public interest being flooded with users desperate to catch their favorite of the original 151 Pokémon.

Zach M, a user since launch and massive Pokémon fan, has stuck with the app through the ups and downs.

“When it first came out it was hilarious. You’d go out and see an outrageous amount of people all outside doing the same thing, but then the game kind of tapered off. Now that it’s getting more […] finished, and the servers actually work, there’s more and more people coming out,” said M.

Pokémon Go has been adding features consistently since 2017, when the users of the app hit their lowest at 65 million. This was due to a stagnation of gameplay, as once you have the original 151 Pokémon, there is a lack of incentive to keep playing.

Sades Russell, a returning player, has come back in the last year due to an influx of events, challenges, and social features.

“I played it for about 6 months after it first released, and then stopped. I picked it up again about a year ago. The game is drastically more now than it was at first release,” said Russell.

One of the largest additions that has consistently evolved since the 2017 implementation is the Raid Battles system. Legendary Pokémon normally could not be caught in the wild, but Raid Battles enabled players to meet at predetermined locations where they could use their Pokémon to defeat one of these “Legendaries”. The mechanic was so popular that it was implemented in main-line Pokémon games Sword and Shield.

The second biggest addition to the game was Community Days and Events. Community Days allow the player to catch ultra-rare “shiny” Pokémon, and Events give players the opportunity to unlock special rewards.

“I think any MMO [Massive Multiplayer Online Game] needs lots of events like that, so it doesn’t get stale, or do the same thing too many times,” said M.

Community days take place monthly and star a different “shiny” Pokémon each time. This entices players to keep checking back.

There is an opportunity for players to interact with each other with a friends list. Here, players send gifts to each other from locations they interact with in their respective cities. When it comes to MMOs, these are very basic features, and players are hoping for more.

“I would love to see an increase in social integration. They do have a level system which allows you to slowly gain abilities with individual members but it feels too slow. I wish there were more interactive ways to connect with friends,” said Russell.

Pokémon Go has changed many times in the five years since it launched, and while the app has experienced ebbs and flows, it is currently sitting as one of the most popular online apps of all time, with 166 million users in 2020.

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