Pokemon Go’s Next Update Needs To Be For The Casuals

There are several apps on my phone that I don't really use, but that I find myself opening habitually. For example, I never post or even engage with Instagram, yet I open it fairly frequently and scroll mindlessly, then close it. I use Sky Sports News almost entirely as a score checker, yet I still open it randomly, realise there are no games on during Wednesday afternoon, then close it. I rarely send emails from my phone, preferring my laptop, but I still check my email all the time to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Sometimes even when I'm sitting at my laptop. For my sins, I even open Buzzfeed from time to time, looking for nothing in particular. Lately, Pokemon Go has become one of these apps, and I can't help but feel a little sad about it.

It was never going to sustain its incredible popularity from the summer of 2016, but for at least three years after that I still played regularly, venturing outside, dashing along to the park for Raids, building decent portions of my free time around playing Pokemon Go. A few factors, personal and global, severed this routine. I moved in with my partner, meaning I lived in a new place away from my PoGo community and, more importantly, had someone to spend time with beyond a virtual Pikachu. Then the pandemic happened, which forced us all inside anyway.

I grew accustomed to playing Pokemon Go without going anywhere, and felt the pandemic-era additions to the game were needed as a constant, not just for the peak of the pandemic. They made the game accessible to rural players and the housebound, and made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable. Some features, like remote raids, have remained, but a lot has been rolled back. Then unrolled back. Then rerolled back. It's been a confusing time, compounded by the fact that in the midst of the game (and the world) telling us all to stay indoors, Pokemon Go added a 12km egg into the mix.

These days, the world is going back to relative normalcy, but my Pokemon Go habits aren't, and I'm not the only one. There are some committed die-hards, but for most players the game is a shadow of its former self, and Pokemon Go is still pushing against that idea instead of adapting to keep the players it still has. Raids can be accessed remotely now, but with a terrible battle UI and the fact remote passes are rare rewards and otherwise have to be bought, they shouldn't be the highlight of the game, yet every piece of research insists on them. Often on multiple. I don't mind them being the earliest way to catch Legendaries, but the game's overreliance on them has become irritating.

PvP battling has been around for a while too, but despite having no real upgrades, is for some reason being heavily pushed now. So too are Rocket battles, even more than usual. Both of these do allow you to play from home but the battle system is so rubbish few people actually want to. The recent Johto event showed the game exploring storytelling (as did, on a smaller scale, the A Mega Moment quest), but put way too much emphasis on Pokemon Going instead of just Pokemon playing.

Pokemon Go is never going to be the simple pleasure it once was, and the more it insists on kicking me out of my house and giving me nothing to do, the quicker I'll resent it. Pokemon Go needs a major update that accommodates the casual playerbase it shot to superstardom off the back of, and it needs it soon. The Pokemon Go Fest understands this, but I’m not convinced the game at large ever will. Unfortunately, it seems destined to keep chasing the money from the whales that represent a tiny fraction of players, and that means I might soon end up giving up on it for good.

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