Goodbye Pokémon GO
Contributed by DJMMT
I started playing Pokémon GO on day one. I remember downloading the app, choosing my first starter, and then being disappointed to find out that they hadn’t actually made the game playable here in Taiwan yet. You could login, create your character, catch your first Pokémon, and then just wait until they distributed the game officially to this country. But my story with Pokémon GO stretches back much farther than the game itself.
My first Pokémon experience was with Pokémon Red and Blue on the original Nintendo Game Boy. I was deep into the franchise as a kid. I bought and completed both Red and Blue, collected the cards, watched the anime, and even collected some of the stuffed animals. I followed the franchise for years with additional video games like Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Stadium, Hey You, Pikachu!, Pokémon Trading Card Game, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee, Pokémon Gold and Silver, and the list goes on. I never got any of the core games after Gold and Silver until this latest generation, but I played a ton of spin-off titles and mobile games over the years. So when I first heard about Pokémon GO, I was more than excited.
I remember the early days of Pokémon GO. I remember roaming around with friends excited to catch Pidgeys and Rattatas. I remember seeing huge swaths of people stampede across fields and streets to catch a Dratini. I remember countless apps people were using to track Pokémon. I remember when they first introduced gyms and how unbalanced the whole system was. It still is by the way. I remember how popular raids were at first and how you never struggled in Taipei to find a full lobby. Since Pokémon GO started, I’ve worked three different jobs, visited more than five different countries, adopted two pets, and gotten married. This game has been a huge part of my life for the last half decade.
No app game has held my constant attention for as long as Pokémon GO has. I have said I was going to quit multiple times but never really ended up quitting. There’s a reason for this. The true brilliance of Pokémon GO for hooking in real Pokémon fans is that it connects to other aspects of the Pokémon metaverse. Every time I’ve considered quitting Pokémon GO there was some connection to some other Pokémon related thing that made staying with it seem like a sensible decision. The best example of this is Pokémon Sword and Shield. Once again, the next generation of Pokémon was split into two games. But this time around I refused to buy both games. I still planned and ultimately did catch ‘em all, but I had to do that without pulling Pokémon from the other half of the generation and trading with myself. Pokémon GO, among a few other options, made this possible. With Pokémon GO, and a bunch of annoying convoluted steps, I was able to get all the Pokémon I wasn’t able to catch in Pokémon Sword without having to ever play Shield or get a friend to help me. It was the perfect solution for people like me that can’t be asked to rely on others to play a game. These sorts of connections coupled with special timed events and rewards kept me going back to Pokémon GO over and over again for five straight years. And I played regularly. I logged in pretty much every day during that time period.
I vowed that I would finally stop playing Pokémon GO for good when I finished Pokémon Sword and fully completed the Pokédex. By the time I accomplished this, they had announced the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra DLC packs, which I of course bought. That meant I still couldn’t quit Pokémon GO, because again I might need to supplement my ability to catch Pokémon in order to fully complete the Pokédex. So I vowed that once I completed the DLC Pokédex I would finally quit Pokémon GO for good. Last month, I finally did it.
I preordered the Pokémon Sword DLC packs but I didn’t end up playing them until several months after they released. By the time they dropped, I was already playing other games and didn’t want to go back to them. Finally, I decided to jump back in after finishing some other games I had been working at. Specifically, I finally stopped playing Nioh 2 after 10 straight months of playing it regularly. That too was something I had to force myself to quit. It took me about 180 total in game hours plus however many hours of Pokémon GO, but I finally completed all three of the Pokédex in Pokémon Sword. I was so glad to see it completed. And the best part was that it coincided with the Zarude special event in Pokémon GO and me getting a new phone. This created the perfect opportunity for me to go out of Pokémon GO with a bang and not have to go through the process of deleting it. I simply didn’t install it in the new phone. It’s as if it was never there to begin with, because it wasn’t.
After a week of not playing Pokémon GO, I have to say I feel great. No more constantly looking at my phone while trying to walk somewhere. No more annoyingly long loading screens. No more having to go through the annoying process of feeding my buddy and battling with them three times a day even though they’re a basic Pokémon that can’t fight to save their life, because they haven’t evolved yet. Once you stop, you realize just how tedious the game has become, because most the things that were great about the game no longer apply.
What I have always loved about Pokémon is the collecting. The motto of the franchise is “Gotta catch ‘em all!” Since day one, collecting Pokémon has always been what Pokémon was supposed to be about. But with every passing year they try more and more to make Pokémon about other things like battling, stats, and cosmetics. Look at most of the other Pokémon mobile games currently available. It’s mostly PVP battle games in one form or another. The Pokémon GO late game is much the same. You spend way more time “training” and battling Pokémon than you do adding new Pokémon to your Pokédex. Why is it that the “only” way to get legendaries is through raids? I really liked the Zarude event, because other than a few annoying battle challenges it was about the single player experience of playing Pokémon GO. It was about catching Pokémon. More importantly, it was about catching a variety of Pokémon.
In the last five years of playing Pokémon GO, my favorite moments have always been when new Pokémon were available to catch in the wild. For me, that’s when Pokémon GO is at its best. When I don’t have to interact with anyone else to make progress in the game. Sure, playing with friends is fun. But playing against strangers isn’t. Not for me anyway. I work for Professor Oak. Not the Pokémon Battle League. Niantic has never put collecting Pokémon first though. We know that because since the beginning there has been a cap on how many Pokémon you can store that’s locked behind a paywall. If collecting was really the main focus, players would never be forced to throw away parts of their collection simply because they’re poor.
I’m glad that the next Pokémon game I’ll be buying is Pokémon Legends: Arceus. It will be nice to play a Pokémon game that’s focused on collecting, has content I’ve never seen before, and hopefully won’t require me to play Pokémon GO or trade with anyone in order to catch ‘em all. This hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the details shared so far and the fact that there’s only one version of the game lead me to believe that this game will be able to be fully completed without external sources. I’m very much looking forward to it.
I don’t regret having played Pokémon GO. I have many fond memories of playing it over the years. But I’m glad to finally be retired from the app. It is my sincere hope that no future Pokémon related games pull me back in. It’s been a long, often annoying ride, but it’s finally time to end it for good. Goodbye Pokémon GO. I will remember you fondly . . . most of the time.