Despite Pokemon Go’s declining popularity, the game itself has actually seen several improvements. Admittedly, most of my renewed enjoyment of the game comes from Niantic’s recent implementation of limited time events but some of it is due to the minor enhancements that Niantic implemented, like the ability to transfer Pokemon by batch, the ability to gain Candies for evolving thanks to the Buddy Pokemon mechanic, and the much improved Pokemon tracking feature.
However, I think that the Pokemon Go experience can be further improved via additional enhancements. I have a few minor ones that, at least in my opinion, won’t require massive changes to the app or the game itself. These improvements may convince some former Pokemon Go players to come back to the game. So let’s get on with it…
More Avatar Customization Options
This is purely aesthetic, but I have to admit that the limited options for customizing your avatar does impact my enjoyment of Pokemon Go somewhat. If you think about it, Pokemon Go is supposed to make you feel like you’re actually a Pokemon trainer who hunts for Pokemon in real life. Having avatars that look like everyone else breaks that illusion a little.
The current options don’t even make a lot of sense. For example, there are four colors of shirts available – red, orange, yellow, and blue. There are four different kinds of pants, but three of them have orange-colored linings. You have the option to have green colored shoes, which doesn’t match with the garments. There aren’t any options for changing your avatar’s facial features, height/weight, or even hairstyle (you’re only limited to changing the hair colors). I’m sure that adding some more options to avatar customization will be welcome to current players. This might even be a good way to add more in-app purchases to the game via special avatar skins.
Increase Items at PokeStops
The previous limited time special events have been awesome, with specific Pokemon appearing more frequently than usual such as the Halloween-themed Pokemon or Santa Hat Pikachu. But the increased Pokemon encounters have somehow revealed a potential problem of the game – an inadequate supply of Poke Balls.
PokeStops normally give out three to four random items at a time – Revives, different kinds of potions for healing, Razz Berry items to aide catching, and three different kinds Poke Balls: standard red Poke Balls, blue Great Balls, and yellow/black Ultra Balls. You get enough of these Poke Balls during normal periods but whenever there’s an event that involves an increased Pokemon spawn/encounter rate, its easy to run out of them. And you can’t catch any Pokemon without Poke Balls, so you won’t be able to take advantage of the increased encounter rate.
Someone might say that this is the time for players to spend real money to buy Poke Balls, and this would have been a legitimate point if not for the fact that you can only buy the normal red Poke Balls from the shop (unless there’s a special offer). So even if I wanted to spend money, I won’t be able to buy Great Balls and/or Ultra Balls which are more powerful versions. And this actually matters; the red Poke Balls don’t work as well as the special versions, and Pokemon can actually flee if your Poke Ball fails. So you can’t just keep using those red Poke Balls; you really need to use a Great or Ultra Ball to minimize those frustrating situations wherein you encounter a rare Pokemon only for it to escape.
A quick fix that won’t break the game is to simply increase the number of items generated by Pokestops by one or two. Now, “recharging” at three Pokestops will give you nine items at the very least. Doing this increase would up that amount to twelve – enough for the increase to matter but not enough to impact any revenue gained from Poke Ball sales at the shop. This doesn’t even need to be a permanent change – Niantic can run this together with their special events to compensate for the increased spawn rates.
Additional Rewards for Winning Gym Battles/Taking Gyms Over
Pokemon Go isn’t limited to catching and collecting Pokemon – the game also involves battling with Pokemon! Currently, this is only limited to Pokemon Gyms. And there are two kinds of combat in the game too; what the game refers to as battles (when a Gym is owned by a different team) and training (when a Gym is owned by the same team).
The main purpose of battling in Pokemon Go is to earn Pokecoins, which is the in-game currency. And earning Pokecoins works this way: every 21 hours, you can collect what the game refers to as the Defender Bonus which is 10 Pokecoins and 500 Stardust (an in-game resource used for evolving Pokemon) for each Gym wherein you have a Pokemon assigned up to a max of ten. You can assign Pokemon to a gym via two ways – by kicking out all Pokemon to a Gym controlled by an opposing team through battling, and by training at a Gym controlled by your team until there’s an available slot.
Once you’ve collected this Defender Bonus, the only benefit to battling more gyms is to gain a minimal amount of XP. Training at a Gym wherein you already have a Pokemon assigned can help other players of the same team by unlocking another slot for them (or making it a little easier). In either cases it’s usually not worth the effort, so I seldom train or do battles until after I’m eligible for the Defender Bonus again.
This would change if there was something more to gain from battles in addition to the bonus XP. Like for instance, getting a small amount of stardust each time I assign a Pokemon to a Gym. Candies would also work and may add a strategic layer to defending Gyms – would I place my more powerful Gyarados at a Gym, or my weaker Snorlax? I’d normally choose the more powerful Pokemon, but if placing Snorlax would get me more Snorlax candies to help me power it up, then it wouldn’t be such an obvious decision. This change should entice players to battle more, and should make Pokemon assignment more dynamic as we’ll start to see players assigning their weaker Pokemon in the hopes of powering them up.
Make Lure Modules Easier to Obtain
One very observable sign that Pokemon Go was declining was the disappearance of active Lure Modules. During the first couple of months from Pokemon Go’s launch in my country, Pokestops with active Lure Modules were very common. In fact, there were weeks wherein a certain Pokestop near my workplace had an active Lure Module daily.
For the uninformed, Lure Modules are items that you can use within the vicinity of a Pokestop that increases the spawn rate of Pokemon within that area for half an hour. So you can see why these items were popular – Pokemon Go players would tend to flock around a Pokestop with an active Lure Module.
The problem with Lure Modules is that they aren’t easily obtainable: you can only get them for free when you level up to 8, 10 and every five levels thereafter. At the lower levels, leveling up is fast because you only need a small amount of XP but as you get higher, the XP requirement for the next level goes up almost exponentially – I’m at Level 27 and I need 250,000 XP to get to Level 28!
You can also buy Lure Modules in the in-game shop; one Lure Module costs 10 Pokecoins and a bundle of 8 costs 680 Pokecoins. That’s a steep price to pay for an item that only lasts 30 minutes; I usually only earn 10 Pokecoins a day because of how the Defender Bonus is awarded and it’ll cost me the rough equivalent of a US dollar in my local currency if ever I wanted to buy using real money. And Lure Modules won’t guarantee good Pokemon – I still remember that day when I used a Lure Module only to catch mostly Pidgeys, Ratatas, and Spearows!
My quick fix is to introduce new ways to acquire Lure Modules for free. To be fair to Niantic’s revenues, a good event for earning free Lure Modules is that Seven Day Streak bonus – whenever a player completes a Seven Day Streak of visiting a Pokestop, they’d get a free Lure Module. I think that’s fair enough – I’d have to play for an entire week, unbroken, in order to get a Lure Module. I’d only earn four Lure Modules in a month, equivalent to four dollars of freebies from Niantic. But the benefit to them can be former players going back to the game.
And there you have it – my recommended changes to Pokemon Go. I kept my ideas grounded and realistic, but I think they are enough to make the game more engaging and should be able to attract players back.
Have you ever played Pokemon Go? What do you think about the current state of the game? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment or two below!