Why the next Pokemon GO update needs to get here now

Posted by Nick Tylwalk on September 4th, 2016
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There's no need to panic about Pokemon GO. Though you're almost certain to have read articles in various places about how it has fallen off in terms of popularity since its stellar debut, that was inevitable. When your star burns as bright as Pokemon GO's did, literally the only place to go is down.

The numbers tell a slightly different story. Pokemon GO is still a top 20 app as we head into the holiday weekend in the U.S., even bouncing up a spot from the previous chart. That's not too shabby for a game that's been out for two months.

More importantly, it's still the top grossing iPhone game (though unlike some of its competitors for that throne, it's way further down on iPad). That should give Niantic all the resources it needs to keep plugging away on updates.

And make no mistake, those updates are definitely needed.

If there's one thing that both Pokemon GO critics and enthusiasts alike agree on, it's that the gameplay could be deeper. Collecting Pokemon on battling over gyms is fine, but here's why everyone that's sticking with it needs something more to do as soon as possible.

Gym battles have become stale

This is perhaps the number one truth as it pertains to the Pokemon GO status quo. Now that everyone has had plenty of time to get accustomed to the ins and outs of gym battles, the vast majority of gyms have fallen into one of two categories.

Those in the most public of places change hands like hotcakes, so quickly that there's no chance for any team to set up shop and reinforce so that it can be held for any length of time. The rest are at the other end of the spectrum: impregnable fortresses that are under the control of a half dozen or more powerful monsters, meaning it would take a concerted effort by a bunch of teammates to even think about attacking them.

To solve that disparity, Pokemon GO could use both more robust social features to plan and organize gym battles. And it needs something else for players, especially casual ones, to do if the gyms around them are too heavily fortified.

Trading could be an answer

There are signs that Pokemon trading could be on the way soon. That's important because it's something that is synonymous with the franchise and a feature that many expected in the game at launch, though Niantic was probably wise to give it some time and see how the in-game economy developed first.

The developers still might not have all the answers they need on that front, but at least with a few months of play, there's reason to believe trading can be effective now. It should help both from a "something else to do" standpoint and for making the game more inherently social.

Pokemon GO Plus is coming soon

This might tie into the idea that the game needs to be expanded more directly than anything else. Surely if you are a Pokemon GO fan, you've heard that a peripheral called the Pokemon GO Plus is on the way. Selling for a suggested $35, the device is small enough to wear on your wrist like a watch and will allow some facets of the game to be played without getting out your phone.

Needless to say, if Niantic and Nintendo want to maximize how many they sell, there has to be a major content update before the device hits stores later this month. The people behind the game are smart enough to realize that too, so it would be a major surprise if something wasn't in the works and arriving in an update very soon.

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