“Pokémon Go” got a huge new update, bringing sweeping and
long-awaited changes to the game’s multiplayer battles.
These changes are just in time: As “Pokémon Go” approaches its
one-year anniversary, the early mega-hype over the game has all
but faded. Make no mistake, there are still
65 million active players, including myself, but the game has
gone stale for many — even the
very first “Pokémon Go” master has
quit the game for lack of new worlds to conquer.
Fortunately for all, these new updates are exactly what the
doctor ordered. While I never stopped playing casually, the
update has me out in the streets again in my quest to catch ’em
After a year of same-old same-old multiplayer, the new update
truly makes “Pokémon Go” great again — and sets the stage for
even more exciting things to come.
The old way
The basics of “Pokémon Go” haven’t changed. Players explore the
real world in search of Pokémon, which can appear anywhere. Along
the way, players will find Pokéstops, which dispense helpful
items when you walk near their locations, and gyms, which are
guarded from attack by other players’ most powerful Pokémon in a
variation on king-of-the-hill.
The problem with the original setup is that it got old, quickly.
Players quickly figured out that only a few Pokémon — most
commonly Dragonite, a rare dragon-type — actually had the stats
necessary to guard a gym from attackers for any length of time.
And so, players raced to swell their collections with
mega-powerful specimens of those few Pokémon, with many opting to
cheat to get the biggest, baddest monsters.
The net result: Players were forced to grind against the same
handful of souped-up Pokémon, over and over again, just to make a
dent in the gym. And even if they were somehow victorious, those
same hardcore players would unseat you pretty much instantly. It
rapidly became apparent that it wasn’t worth it, so many players
The new hotness
Niantic, the developer of “Pokémon Go,” took its time rolling out
these updates, but it’s obvious that they were
With this update, Pokémon placed at gyms lose “motivation,” and
thus combat power, the longer they’re placed at a gym. If
motivation hits zero, the Pokémon is automatically kicked out.
Motivation can be restored by feeding berries to each Pokémon at
the gym in regular intervals.
This neatly solves one big problem — if the lineup at a gym is
too intimidating for a player, simply wait, and it’ll be easier.
Plus, any Pokémon over 3000 CP, or “combat power,” lose
motivation super quickly, meaning they’re more likely to vanish,
barring organized enemy action in keeping them well-fed. Oh, and
you can only have one of each type of Pokémon at a gym at any one
time, which further increases the variety in defending lineups.
The icing on the cake: Niantic is cracking down on cheaters,
making a more concerted effort to keep them from ruining
everybody else’s fun.
That’s a very good start. But wait, there’s more.
It’s a raid
What’s really cool are the new addition of “Raid battles.” From
morning until around sunset, certain gyms will play host to a
massive, mega-powerful Pokémon. You and up to 19 other players
can team up to take it down. A successful Raid will net you
otherwise-unobtainable items and a chance to catch a version of
the Pokémon you just took down.
Better still is that certain Pokémon, otherwise unloved in the
game, are actually found to be amazing at Raids. It’s just
another way that Niantic is thinking through how to increase
variety in the game.
Down the line, this Raid system feels like the logical way to
distribute “legendary” Pokémon, the rarest of the rare —
forcing 20 players to work together just to catch a Mewtwo or
Articuno sounds like my idea of a good time.
“Pokémon Go” has always been at its best when it encourages
real-world camaraderie between players, and this is a positive
step in that direction.
All of these neat little tweaks add up to a reason to play more
“Pokémon Go.” Now, I have a shot at defending a gym, whether or
not I have the most powerful of the powerful Pokémon, which I
don’t. And by teaming up with other players, I can take down
powerful bosses, which also gives me a better chance to catch ’em
There are lots of little, niggling things that I wish they would
fix. The new system, for instance, is still a nightmare outside
of urban areas like San Francisco, where I live. Too few gyms
means that it’s still trivially easy for a handful of players to
take one over with their most powerful monsters.
But more than ever, it feels like the first step into something
bigger, as Niantic takes the template that we’ve had for a year
and really builds on it. Those legendaries are an obvious place
to start; there’s room for so much more.
Ultimately, all I know is my partner and I have ran out of the
house at least once to complete a Raid. That’s something that we
haven’t done with “Pokémon Go” since it first came out. If
Niantic’s goal is to reinvigorate the fires under its most
dedicated players, and reel new ones in, this is a very