Like most people, I got caught up in the initial hype about Pokemon Go. I have a text chain between me and Chris that goes on for several days about how addictive the game is. Articles were written illustrating how Nintendo and Niantic were able to do what doctors, politicians, and parents all over America could not. They got people to go outside and voluntarily walk. Pokemon Go was heralded as the new must have “it” app for fitness and recreation. Nintendo’s stock rose significantly until they reminded people that they had little to nothing to do with the app or its success.
You might argue for the case of modesty or stupidity on Nintendo’s part. Initially, I thought the move was stupid. The more I thought about it, though, I realized that it might be a misguided attempt to avoid litigation or fines. Why they might face fines, I can’t explain, and it sounds silly now. But, sometimes the rules and regulations of the finance industry confuse and enrage me. I suspect that corporations and their lawyers feel the same way and that’s how we ended up with America, Inc’s first CEO.
I now realize that they most likely just wanted to distance themselves from the app due to the inevitable backlash. Because, just as quickly and easily as they hooked people on the basic concept of Pokemon in real life, they saw their user base shrink to only a fraction of its peak. As is often the case with the internet, some of the hate was ridiculous. People worried that Nintendo (again, not involved in the project in any significant way) was collecting all of the map and camera data from users and storing it on a server. What they’d then do with that data was never explicitly defined as far as I know. But, so goes all such paranoid conspiracy theories. Others just hated it because it was popular and they think that all it takes to be cool and edgy is to hate things that are popular.
After the initial buzz wore off, I started to realize what others realized. Like so many games that are released these days, Pokemon Go started to feel more like an open beta than a finished game. Not one to use Twitter very much, I even sent out a tweet about it a few months ago. Once you get beyond the coolness factor of “gotta catch em all” and taking funny pictures of Pokemon on your friends butt, what is there? The “game” is little more than a glorified combination fit bit/snapchat filter app. There’s just not enough to keep me coming back right now.
But, you might argue, Nintendo has never been one to shy away from unfinished products or shovelware. While that may be true, more often than not, those games were 3rd party games and Nintendo was able to distance themselves from the trainwreck. Besides, there’s enough fan boys like me who will forgive almost anything if there’s a new Zelda, Mario, and/or Metroid.
Pokemon is different. As evidenced by the stock price episode, Pokemon is as recognizable as a Nintendo franchise as their big 3. It isn’t quite popular enough to warrant inclusion and expand to the “Big 4” since it has been more of a niche game than the other three. Pokemon Go started to change that some. People that I’d have never considered as Pokemon fans started playing this game. Pokemon was on the “it” list.
Plus, the partnership between Nintendo and Game Freak has been mutually beneficial. No reason to potentially damage that with some half baked app that may or may not prove to have staying power. Better to let it sing or swim and let Niantic deal with the fall out of this one. That’s my current half baked theory, at least. We’ll see if there’s any merit to it.
Even so, none of that explains why they would take that stance. In other words, what are the problems with Pokemon Go? Well, I’ve already explained that it feels unfinished. Again, that’s not unusual. In this day and age of digital gaming and endless patches, more often than not games are released missing content. Blizzard is one of the companies that is notorious for this. Look, I know that we like to have fun at the expense of Blizzard around here, but I promise that this isn’t piling on. Inevitably, every WoW expansion gets numerous patches. It’s gotten to the point where the patches have themes and even names. It’s not a but, it’s a feature.
While I don’t necessarily like this brave new world, it is our reality and, frankly, how we need to judge some games. What level of incomplete are you willing to tolerate in a game? It seems as if the answer to that question changes over time. I used to forgive Blizzard for their incomplete releases and routine patches. Heck, I even remember that I sold that feature when explaining the game to people. “They give you all of this additional content in the form of regular patches for no additional charge!”
That was certainly not my attitude about Pokemon Go. I greeted their announcement of updates of the game with cynicism and skepticism. As it turns out, my reaction was warranted. While Niantic talked a good game about introducing some of the more desired features (most notably trainer battles), it has taken them two updates simply to introduce “buddy” Pokemon and generation 2.
Look, I never give up on a game that I think might have potential. I’m flawed that way. Also, as far as I know, there isn’t a template for releasing this type of game. Maybe the missing features take a massive amount of testing before being rolled out. Whatever the case, I don’t think that I will be a regular in the game until those features are implemented. I suspect that many others feel the same.