So far, Niantic’s promised “legendary” summer for Pokémon GO has been anything but, though a gym rework and raids have arrived.
We have no word on the arrival of Zapdos, Moltres, Articuno, Mewtwo or any of the eleven total legendaries and mythics across two generations that Niantic promised would start making their way into the game this summer.
The running theory (well, our running theory) is that they will be released toward the end of July around or during Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago. Perhaps locally there as a kick off, but instantly expanding worldwide. At that point, summer will be pretty much 2/3rds over, but at least they’ll get here.
Part of the delay may not be logistical, as we clearly have the delivery system in place at this point for raids. But rather Niantic may still be sorting through exactly what kind of shockwaves the arrival of legendaries will send through the entity of Pokémon GO once they arrive.
In our view, legendaries will bring with them five specific problems that will need solving if their launch is going to be a success, and not totally unbalance or break the game in the process. Here they are:
1. Rare candy
We know that common sense has led many to save all their Rare Candies for when legendaries do arrive, given how hard they will probably be to upgrade otherwise, but given that you can get anywhere from 2-10 Rare Candy per raid, we don’t think that Niantic necessarily wants a system where a Mewtwo shows up and people are able to dump 200 candy worth of upgrades into him on day one with their stockpiles. Therefore, we’re not 100% convinced that they’ll let Rare Candy work on Legendaries.
Does that kind of suck? Sure, but we also get the desire to make sure that players have to work to train these Pokémon, rather than being able to hoard currency and dump it as soon as they arrive.
The counterpoint to this is that even if candy is freely available for upgrades, Stardust won’t be. It’s possible that that the hard bottleneck for upgrades will simply be sky-high Stardust costs, meaning that Rare Candy may not be as much of an issue. But we still think Niantic may not allow it. We’ll see.
For the most part, the history of Pokémon in the handheld version dictates that there is almost always one of each legendary or mythic Pokémon in a given game for the player to catch. Yes, with multiple save files and other trading tricks you can have a team of Mewtwos or what have you, but the spirit of these Pokémon is that they are entirely unique, unlike the rest of the roster.
We… don’t think it’s a good idea if Niantic starts changing that now. We don’t think that people should be able to stockpile 3 Mewtwos, 5 Enkei, 10 Zapdos if they raid enough. Rather, our solution would be that duplicates would be the main source of upgrade candy for these Legendaries. As in, if you catch one, maybe you get 10-20 candy of that type. Given that you will never hatch these Pokémon or find them in the wild, and if Rare Candy is disallowed, this would be motivation to keep raiding legendaries you already have, and a clear path to upgrade them. And it would keep the “unique” status of Legendaries intact.
3. Legendary buddies
This point is solely dependent on what Niantic chooses to do with Rare Candy and duplicates. If they allow for one or both of those to work for candy generation, that might be fine. But if not? We feel like Niantic might pull a card like “you really need to work for legendary upgrades” and put a 5-10 km requirement on their candy and force you to walk endlessly in the Buddy System as the only source of candy generation.
This would be bad. No one would ever have anything but a legendary in their buddy slot if this were the case, and while we think you should be able to walk your buddy, we don’t think it’s a good idea to make that the primary source of upgrade candy generation for these Pokémon given how much it will completely dominate the system indefinitely.
4. Gyms/Power level
We’ve actually changed our tune on this issue because of the recent gym rework. Previously, we would have been almost certain that legendaries could/should be banned from holding gyms, because with their increased power level over normal Pokémon, you would have all these level 10 gyms stocked with nothing but multiple copies of the most powerful legendaries in the game, like we already saw with Dragonite, Gyarados, Tyranitar and so on.
But now? We don’t think that’s as much of an issue. The gym rework has totally changed the game when it comes to the design of gyms and the motivation to hold them. You cannot have multiple copies of one Pokémon in a gym, for a start, meaning no six Mewtwo establishments. But past that, there’s no real benefit to holding gyms for long periods of time with powerful Pokémon with the 50 coin limit, and also hugely powerful Pokémon (over 3,000 CP, which many legendaries will be when upgraded, we’re sure) see their strength decay faster than most.
We think the current gym system is actually fine for legendaries. It will be a way for players to show off their rare, powerful Pokémon, but they will not be impossible to take down, and players won’t actually want them staying in gyms indefinitely anyway because of the new system. This is a problem that has already kind of been pre-solved unless we are missing any complications.
5. Tier 5 Raids in rural areas
Alright, this is a pretty big one. While living in Chicago, we can see about 100 different raids come and go in a given day (there were seriously 15 listed on my nearby at once yesterday, as seen above), in rural or suburban areas with much more limited gyms, Tier 3-4 raids are already a problem due to the fact that it’s hard to get people in those areas in the same place at the same time. Tier 5 raids may prove to be downright impossible.
While we understand that some people can coordinate with Facebook groups and do a lot of other elaborate things to work together, skewing it so yet another aspect of the game, legendary raid bosses, heavily favor city players would be a demoralizing disaster. Niantic still has many rural problems to address with the game, but they need to nip this one in the bud before it gets out of hand. The debut of legendaries will be soured if the 20+ people you absolutely need to take down a 50,000 CP Zapdos are just not available in 80% of the world.
We’ve said this from the moment raids debuted, raiding needs better scaling. Sometimes it’s too easy, like how a group of 10 can beat down a 18K Alakazam before we can say the word “Alakazam,” but often times for rural and suburban players, Tier 3-4 raids are downright impossible because they don’t scale down at all with the number of players who participate. And now that raids are open to every from level 5 onward, you can’t be sure even the people that do show up will be able to contribute in any meaningful way. There needs to be some measure of scaling for raids like these that makes them challenging, but achievable with smaller groups than what we see now.