Nothing but Zubats
There are several news outlets reporting that Pokemon Go has reached its peak and is now starting to trend downwards. This is zero surprising to me, simply because it would be hard for any game to reach this level of viral saturation… and then somehow manage to sustain it. There are a lot of factors at play here, not the least of which is our apparent short attention span when it comes to internet fueled phenomena. That said I personally am still playing it quite regularly, but with a lot less of the reckless abandon. On my drive into work every morning there are still a couple of parking lots I pop by and check that have given me good finds in the past. However I am largely not doing the evening walking thing, because we have had a streak of 100 degree days with some silly humidity going on. Whenever I stop anywhere however I still habitually whip out the phone to check if there is anything interesting around. I’ve made several trips to local hot spots in a constant search of something new. The game however has a lot of problems standing in front of it, and I believe that they more than anything are what is standing in the way of player retention. The truth be told, I feel like we are at a point of being rolled out to every market that really makes a difference, and that was probably never the intention… or at least not this soon. However the social pressure of players wanting to play desperately, and being willing to find other ways to do so… meant that if they did not push to other territories that they were ultimately losing their shot at that income stream.
The biggest problem with this game is that the experience is not equitable. I count myself lucky that I work in a town of 500,000 and live in a metro area of roughly 1 million. That said other than a dozen “hot spots”, Tulsa seems to be a wasteland of Pidgey, Rattata, Weedle and oh so many Zubats. When you get out to the suburbs where I live, even those seem to be few and far between that when I go on a walk I am catching them more out of a sense of boredom than any desire to actually waste the pokeballs on them. Similarly I get excited when I see the next tier of “mostly trash” Pokemon in the form of the Doduo, Caterprie, Venonat, and Spearow because it breaks up the monotony of an ocean of Pidgey candy. I said that I count myself lucky, because as miserable as it is to go a week without seeing anything interesting… I am still sitting just shy of level 20 with 76 Pokemon caught and 77 seen. Thusfar “the one that got away” was a Dratini that I lost due to the once super common “pokeball lock up”, where the screen would freeze on catch and you had either caught the Pokemon or not, but had no real second chance because you would have to restart the app to get control again. The folks that are in really dire straights are those who are unlucky enough to live in rural areas. I know when I have traveled to various small towns here in Oklahoma I have seen nothing but the regular assortment of random trash Pokemon, even surrounding Pokestops.
Servers On Fire
Another huge problem up until this point is that the servers have been anything but reliable. Another way that I am extremely lucky is that I have a wife who is super understanding about my desire to go hunting invisible creatures. She has suggested multiple times that we take road trips to check out other areas and see if maybe I can get far enough out of our zone to find something new and interesting. The problem there is that until this week you never really could rely on the servers actually being up at any given moment. It is impossible to tell the difference between what is just the servers on fire from usage, and what is Niantic actually performing maintenance. The reason being that the company behind this game seems to think the best policy is zero communication with their customers about basic up time information. So the one time a few weeks back when we actually decided to take a road trip, the servers looked fine when we left our house. Then by the time we actually reached our destination I could not catch anything without getting a string of constant application lockups due to the servers not responding. I went to a park that I thought would be loaded with Pokemon, and ultimately it was… however after trying to catch four things and getting four pokeball lockups, I gave up and headed home frustrated.
Now when I say that the experience is not equitable, I think it is worth mentioning the experience that the faction of AggroChat is having up in Seattle. They seem to have a cavalcade of hot and cold running Pokemon all of the time. Tam apparently lives across from some park that is an absolute hot bed of activity in the evening, and while we have those here they are nowhere near my house, and would be horribly awkward to drive to at 9/10 pm at night. Here in Tulsa there is a reddit that keeps tabs on what folks have seen and caught… and I know in Seattle they seem to be regularly catching things that we have never seen. So ultimately I feel like they need to tweak the base population to be a little more fair, and a lot less based on cellular activity which was the case with Ingress. I am sure this game is a phenomenal experience in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Chicago… but significantly less for those of us stuck in smaller population centers. So if we have reached “Peak Pokemon”, I feel like a good chunk of it comes from the frustration of wanting to play… and when you finally can keep connected to the servers, the only thing you see are the same critters you see everywhere. My kingdom for a Vulpix or I would quite literally wet myself if I probably saw a Pikachu or a Charmander.
All of this said… I am still very much interested in this game. The part of Pokemon that I enjoy the most is roaming around and catching new things, and for the most part this app lets me do ONLY that. However at some point I am going to get bored with the assortment of common and slightly less common Pokemon that I can regularly find here. I caught a Machoke on Monday, and that had been the first new wild Pokemon I had seen in over two weeks. Most of the new finds I am getting, are through sheer brute force evolution of less common critters. For example I got an Arbok yesterday, by finally getting enough candy to evolve and Ekans. While in part I am happy to tick off another checkbox in the Pokedex… I would have far rather seen an Arbok in the wild, or a Seaking, or a Gloom… or the countless other evolutions I have finally gotten enough candy to do. I am admittedly jealous of the folks who live in active enough areas to see that sort of stuff in the wild, without actually resorting to making Pokemon Go into a lifestyle. Sure there are folks that have been hanging out at the handful of hot spots every single night here in Tulsa, and I am certain they have seen some pretty awesome stuff. However what I am looking for is a game that I can play in the times between going and doing other things, and for the most part this game fits that bill awesomely. I am just hoping that at some point they give me something more interesting to see than another Rattata. Right now my app is telling me that I have caught 660 Pokemon, and quite literally I figure at least 300 of those have been Zubats. Largely I am just hoping at some point the game changes in a way that makes me still have hope that I will find something interesting in the wild. That is a huge part of what has nerfed my nightly walks is knowing that a trip around the neighborhood is maybe going to get me a couple Pidgeys, a Rattata and if I am super lucky an Eevee. I am curious what your own experiences have been? Are you having much luck “catching them all”?