There have been quite a few changes to Pokemon GO within the last month. So much in fact, that we’ve nearly dedicated all our articles to them recently. Every day, there seems to be some extra detail or opinion leaked about the current and upcoming updates. However, here at pokemongoout.com, we’ve realized something. It’s one thing to report on all the goings on with Pokemon GO. It’s another thing to really break them all down. So that’s what we’re going to do.
With so many changes to pick from, it’s pretty difficult to pick a starting point. Off the top of my head, there’s the new tracking system, the gym regression, and the vehicle speed lock down. Oh yeah, there’s also the start of the Generation 2 migration. We can’t forget about that. With that comes the question about what’s going to happen with Tyrogue. And, of course, there’s the topic of corporate sponsorship.
There’s a lot of heavy stuff to get into. It would probably be a good idea to start off light. There is plenty of time to dig into the complicated stuff later. Right now, let’s get going with something bright, refreshing, and arguably delicious. I’m talking about the new Starbucks drink made to celebrate Pokemon GO: the boringly named Pokemon GO Frappuccino.
I’ve got to admit, I was a bit late in ordering the Pokemon GO Frappuccino. I didn’t get a chance to swing by my local Starbucks and pick one up on launch day. I waiting until the day after. Even then, I didn’t think to give it a try until I had already eaten lunch. Why is that relevant, you ask? I only bring it up because I was told flat out that I was the first person to order the damn thing. That didn’t seem like a good sign.
Luckily, the staff was trained in how to make it. Within a few minutes, I swiped my drink, slid out the door, and took a picture. The first thing that comes to mind is “why is it purple?” I mean, I know why on a technical standpoint. The ingredients for the drink is a vanilla base Frappuccino with raspberry flavoring and blended blackberries. There’s no other color it could be. But again, why is it purple?
To my knowledge, blackberries and raspberries don’t quite have a connection with Pokemon lore. So that can’t be the reason. I originally thought that they were going for a Pokeball kind of thing. That would have made some sense with the whipped cream on top. But the color of the drink is a far cry from the bright red of the iconic Pokeball. And to be honest, it doesn’t actually match the Master Ball. So it’s really just a mystery. I almost feel like it would have even made more sense for them to make a drink named “Squirtle’s Elixir” and had it just be a cup of water.
Regardless, after taking my picture, it was time for the moment of truth. How did it taste? Not bad. It was pretty good, actually. Good for a sugar bomb, I mean. The best way to describe the flavor is blackberry cotton candy with whipped cream on top. Except it wasn’t as sickeningly sweet as that sounds. Like I said, the flavor was definitely pretty tasty. The blackberry fruit teamed up with the milk and worked well against the raw sweetness of the syrups. It was smooth and easy to drink, which was surprising for such a sugary drink.
I could see grabbing it again in the near future. The next time I get a sweet tooth, I may find myself ordering another Pokemon GO Frappuccino. If I do, though, I would definitely make a couple customizations. First, the dairy of the milk worked well, but it needed more. Replacing the milk with heavy cream would help add in a lot more substance. After that, I would ask for the drink to be double blended. That way, the fruit and ice has a lot more time to smooth out within the drink. Oh, and by the way, that’s not a tip just for this drink. The same trick works for any Frappuccino on the board. The resulting drink comes out tasting more like a milkshake. And I dare anyone to say that’s a bad thing. You just may not want to make them a daily ritual.
After finishing the Pokemon GO Frappuccino, I started thinking about the relationship between Niantic Labs and Starbucks. After all, the drink wouldn’t have existed in the first place if that deal was never made. To recap, Starbucks has a sponsorship deal with Niantic Labs. This deal added thousands of new PokeStops in Pokemon GO at Starbucks locations all over the country. These PokeStops are a bit different from the others. Instead of featuring an image of a landmark, it features an ad for Starbucks instead. And for better or worse, they’re here to stay.
The “better” part of it is pretty simple. We all get more PokeStops out of it. Also, Niantic Labs gets some sponsorship money and Starbucks get advertising potential. From the outside, that’s a win-win-win. Everybody ends up happier at the end of the day. That’s nearly unheard of. Of course, not everything can be perfect. There are definitely some potential downfalls with the deal.
The most obvious downfall is that this is the start of advertising in Pokemon GO as we know it. Before taking on sponsorships, Pokemon GO entirely relied on in-app purchases from its player base. That way, their only concern was to keep the players happy and interested. That’s no longer the case.
Now, Niantic Labs has to make sure to cater to their advertisers. Extra money is great to have, but it never comes for free. Now that Pokemon GO is in a pocket or two (don’t forget about Sprint and McDonalds), there’s always going to be the question “will my advertisers like this?” before they make a decision. So now, even if something is great for the players, it may not be implemented into the game. All it might take is an angry phone call from someone who cuts Niantic a check every month. Anything that gets in the way of the relationship between developer and audience can be a bad thing.
So far, though, there seems to be no obvious foreshadowing of dark times. As of now, the only real changes we’ve seen are extra PokeStops. And sure, those stops are just advertisements instead of a cute little image of something neat, but how many of those have you really paid attention to. Of all the PokeStops I frequent, I doubt I could point out what even 5 of them actually are. One’s a mural. Another is some kind of statue thing. And I have to think about the rest of them. Regardless, little advertisements are a small price to pay for updated features. Oh, and speaking of updates.
The December Update
The December update has been, at the least, fairly disappointing. And I hate to say it, but hype is what really ruined it. Even a month beforehand, we were getting excited interviews about what’s coming soon to Pokemon GO. CEO John Hanke himself even spoke up about the big update coming before the end of the year. It was a great time too. Forums and articles everywhere were speculating exactly what we can expect from the update. Without anything specific to hold on to, the sky was the limit. Depending on which site you visited, the gaming public assumed it would be Generation 2, legendary Pokemon, trading, battling, tracking, messaging, or any combination thereof. Here, just check out this article from GamenGuide posted all the back on Halloween.
There are also rumors that there will be new Pokemons that will be added to “Pokemon GO.” Some of the rumoured Pokemons are the legendaries like Mew, MewTwo, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres.
The Christmas update in “Pokemon GO” might be the biggest update that will be made for the game. Rumors say that Niantic might also be launching the “Pokemon GO” Trading System and PVP Battles along with new Pokemons.
You can’t blame the hype train for getting out of control. Data miners have found code for trading, battling, legendary Pokemon, and Generation 2 far before the update was teased. Without any input from Niantic Labs about time tables, current projections, or anything else, there was nothing left but speculation. And unchecked speculation has a tendency to run wild. The biggest problem with that is that when you reign that speculation back in, people get disappointed. And that’s exactly what happened.
When you step back and look at it, the recent updates are fine. We got an upgraded and functioning tracking system. True, it’s pretty controversial since it’s based on PokeStops (which screws over rural players), but at least it works now. We also got access to Ditto as well as 7 of the 8 baby Pokemon from Generation 2. There’s also a decent Winter Event that comes fully stocked with festive hat-wearing Pikachus. All in all, it’s a pretty decent update. Unfortunately, most of us were expecting so much more. Niantic should have noticed players were having high expectations. I’m not saying that should have forced them to push for bigger changes, but they could have implemented some kind of damage control. At the very least, they could have refrained from teasing a moderate sized update.
Oddly enough, the move to save most of Generation 2 makes a lot of sense. Niantic knows that a lot of people aren’t going to be playing Pokemon GO while it’s so cold outside. Adding 100 Pokemon now wouldn’t really do them any good. It’s hard to entice players to get outside when the lakes and roads are frozen. It’s a much safer bet to assume they’ll come out next Summer. That way, they have a chance of gathering another large crowd back to the game. But again, this isn’t an issue of what’s smart or not. The problem is with how the December update was handled.
The Trading and Battling
The tragedy with trading and battling isn’t even that it’s missing from the December update. The real disappointment is in how long we’ve been without them. Sure, it’s really sad that they weren’t added in the game this month. I’m not saying otherwise. My point is that it’s way more depressing that the game has been out for several months now without any mention of one or the other. We’ve been waiting half a year for them, and they are still nowhere in sight.
The saddest part is that trading would have been the most fun right at the start. This Summer, I was often in a group of over 100 people flinging Pokeballs across my phone. Now, I’m lucky to come across half a dozen. As late as it is, if trading came out now, I’d only be able to trade with my wife and a couple of close friends. I fully understand that things like that take a lot of time and testing to get right. My problem is that trading is a strong cornerstone of Pokemon in general. Perhaps if they didn’t have it figured out this year, they should have waiting until next year. I’m worried that the decision not to could ultimately spell real trouble for Pokemon GO’s future.
If trading is a huge cornerstone, then battling is the foundation. We can battle in gyms all day long, but there’s absolutely no support for simple PVP battles. There’s no excuse for that at all. Pokemon isn’t just a collection game. You collect Pokemon in order to fight with them. That’s the entire premise. They even added in IV scores into the mix. However, those mean nearly nothing without PVP. Gym battling doesn’t need in-depth attribute scoring to complete. It should have been in the game months ago. Both of these should have been.
It’s easy to look at what’s missing and feel disappointed. However, as we move forward, it’s best if we focus on what we have instead of what we don’t. We have a solid Pokemon mobile game that’s seeing consistent updates and bug patches. We also have a company who is working hard on implementing tons of new features into the game. We have fun, holiday events that show promise for the future. We even have a handful of new Pokemon to play around with. All of these things are really nice, good things about Pokemon GO.
I know a lot of this article seems dreary. I had to cover a lot of disappointing things here. Regardless, I still get a lot of fun and enjoyment out of Pokemon GO. It’s still a fun experience that’s constantly growing and changing as the weeks go by. The updates and features we crave are being developed right now. And while we definitely want them sooner rather than later, they will be here when they’re ready. Until then, all we can do is catch some more Pikachus with Santa hats. Before the season is over, I expect to see at least one gym filled to the brim with them.
I am optimistic about the future for Pokemon GO and Niantic Labs. They have hit plenty of snags along the way, but they have really seemed to find their groove in the recent months. Now that they’ve seemingly gotten a handle on Pokemon GO, I’m excited to see what they can do with a full year of work. There’s no telling for sure what this next year will bring. However, I am sure that by the time next December rolls around, there will be a lot more positive things to say about Pokemon GO.