It's almost two years since Pokemon GO went out and the world went crazy for it. I still remember watching groups of players stumbling around the harbour near where I live to collect some rare water-based monsters. That was always the wonderful thing about Pokemon GO, it brings people together.
And with the new updates announced recently, that appears to be something that Niantic understands. But the upcoming anniversary has got me thinking - what does the game need to do to keep going strong for another two years?
That's what we're going to think about in this article. But feel free to share your own suggestions, we'd love to hear what could keep you playing, or start you playing, the game that defined AR on mobile.
If there's one thing that Pokemon GO did well, it was bringing people together. I still remember seeing groups of people around the marina near where I live in the weeks after the game came out, all of them trying to grab some water Pokemon. There was a community, a bunch of disparate people brought together to catch some make believe monsters.
Even recently, with the game losing some of that initial wow factor, events have pulled players together to try and catch them all. Which is what makes Niantic's decision to pull support for the game from iPhones and iPads that can't run iOS 11 all the more perplexing.
The community matters
Games like Pokemon GO thrive on their community. I mean, when you strip it down to the bare bones, it's really just a map with a few shiny trinkets spread around it. But the added competition of real-life players, of pitting your training skills against your friends, is part of what made the game sing from the off.
And now the step has been taken to hobble some of that community. To basically take the game away from them. Of course, I know that a lot of people will won't care. They'll have a device they can still play the game on, but the galling thing is the precedent that this is setting.
Some new games already won't run on the 6S, which came out in 2015. And that shows how big a problem serious game players could end up facing in the years to come. We can't all afford to update to the newest iPhone every time it comes out, but lagging just a couple of years behind shouldn't present such a massive problem.
More than a game console?
Yes, the iPhone is more than a device for playing games on, but look at the lifespans of videogame consoles. In the case of the PS3 and Xbox 360, they stretched into double figures. Seriously. When the Xbox 360 first came out, the iPhone didn't even exist. And since the iPhone came out just over a decade ago, we've seen 18 different models.
Bear in mind this is a game you can play on Android 4.4, which came out in 2013. If you're on an Apple device, you need to be running an OS that only landed last year. So here's a final thought. Communal games like Pokemon GO are some of the easiest to unravel.
It's not about losing huge chunks of players, but just a few here and there. When meet ups get smaller, people are less interested in going. And if your phone can't run the game any more, then you're definitely not going to bother. While there are obviously reasons behind Niantic's decision, this feels like the first cracks starting to show in the great gaming edifice that was Pokemon GO.
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.
The Team Leaders in Pokemon GO have had it pretty easy up until now. They show up when players reach level 5, make their cases for joining their respective teams, and that's pretty much it. Light work, as Floyd Mayweather might say.
Niantic's latest update for the game changes that situation and turns every Team Leader into a consultant of sorts. Can't blame them for that, as there's money to be had in that field, or so I'm told.
They still don't have to commute or work out of an office, but here's what you need to know about the Team Leaders' new duties and the new update in general.
You may have heard people talk about a mythical "fate worse than death" before, but here's something that definitely fits that bill: getting banned from playing Pokemon GO -- forever.
We're being tongue in cheek while saying that, but it's happening more and more often. As reported by various media outlets over the last few days, Niantic has been issuing permanent bans to some Pokemon GO players for what it says are violations of the game's terms of service. To be fair, most people never read the TOS for, well, anything, but some of the issues the developers have pointed out are clear.
Things like using bots are actions that only the most passionate believers that users should be able to do whatever they want with software tend to defend. Other violations pointed out by Niantic are less obvious and have already been the subject of some debate within the Pokemon GO community.
But the rules are the rules, and all we can do is roll with them. In the interest of keeping you in the game, here are three things you shouldn't do if you want to avoid the banhammer.
It's hard to remember one aspect of a popular mobile game that's caused as much hand-wringing as the 'Nearby' tab in Pokemon GO. Just in case you're one of the (very) few people who hasn't played the game or followed its coverage, the tab was supposed to offer a way for players to have an easy reference for which Pokemon were nearby and approximately how far away they were.
The phrase "supposed to" is the key there. It never functioned as intended thanks to what gamers dubbed the "three-step glitch," causing all the Pokemon to appear as if they were an equal distance from the player. Instead of fixing it, Niantic deactivated the feature altogether in one of the game's first updates, causing a predictable overreaction from some of the more passionate Pokemon GO enthusiasts.
The thing is, they had a bit of a point, in the sense that when paired with Niantic cutting off support for third-party tracking apps, gamers were left without a way to even know which Pokemon were around, much less hunt them down. The latest Pokemon GO update doesn't offer a fix, but it does provide a roadmap for how the developers might proceed.
There's been a lot of buzz going through the Pokemon GO community this week after the game received several small updates in the span of a few days. Most of the attention focused on the fact that Niantic removed the infamous three-step tracking feature that was supposed to tell players how close Pokemon were -- but didn't, as it never worked right.
While the debate over that change will likely continue to rage on, something else may have been slipped into the game without quite as many people noticing. Namely, it might now be harder to catch 'em all because it's harder to catch them at all.
Forget big, splashy content additions for the time being. Pokemon GO received an update over the weekend, and it mostly came with a whimper instead of a bang.
That's not to say it wasn't welcome. The update, which hit both iOS and Android, fixed one of the more annoying things that didn't work with the game for most of its existence, made a key activity simultaneously easier and more difficult, and introduced some unintentional humour (we think) into the mix.
There's no question that candy is dandy in Pokemon GO. You need big quantities of it to evolve your Pokemon, and when combined with stardust, it can be used to power up your favorite pocket monsters as well, making them more formidable for the gym battles that await you.
But the dilemma facing many players is which of those purposes is best suited for your candy. Since it only takes a single piece to power up any Pokemon, using it that way doesn't seem too wasteful.
As it turns out, the consensus from people who have been playing Pokemon GO nonstop since launch is that even a single piece of candy devoted to powering up Pokemon is probably a piece of candy wasted. Here are some compelling arguments for why you should rarely, if ever, power up your Pokemon.
Let me know if this scenario sounds familiar. You've got a Pokemon GO gym battle within easy walking distance, and you've visited it many times. Maybe you've even dropped one of your Pokemon there to help defend the place and reap the benefits.
Inevitably though, one of the other teams always comes and beats up your squad, flying its colors proudly. And since the Pokemon they leave there are impossibly tough, there's not a darn thing you can do about it.
Pokemon GO had a scheduled appearance at this year's San Diego Comic-Con for a while, but it was only relatively close to the show that it was upgraded to a spot in Hall H. That's the biggest venue at SDCC, one usually reserved for the largest movie and television panels.
Such is the runaway success of Pokemon GO that no one really batted an eye when the game's panel, which featured folks from the game's developer, Niantic, including studio chief John Hanke. While he and his team spoke this weekend about when has happened with the game so far, the big draw was everything they hinted at that is yet to come.
By now, almost everyone should be hip to how to evolve Pokemon in Pokemon GO (and if not, there's a guide for that). Just gather enough candy of the appropriate type, feed them all to the Pokemon, and evolution happens. It's a miracle that would astound Darwin.
For every rule, though, an exception lurks in the shadows. And when it comes to Pokemon evolution, that exception has a name: Eevee.
Playing Pokemon GO without walking is sort of defeating the purpose. Nintendo wanted Niantic to help it create a game that would get people up and moving about, and darned if that isn't exactly what they got.
Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to hatching Pokemon Eggs. As we've told you previously, there are three kinds of eggs, each of which takes a different amount of walking to hatch. Or maybe we should say "walking" in quotes, because despite the developers' best intentions, there are ways around doing 10 km on the shoe leather express.
Clearly, Niantic and Nintendo don't need any advice on how to create a popular mobile game. Pokemon GO fever has swept not just the nation, but the entire world. Except Japan, ironically, where it's not out yet.
On the other hand, even the developers would have to admit that there are ways that the game can be improved. It's not the deepest Pokemon game ever, and since it's on mobile, content updates will be not just hoped for, but absolutely essential to keep it relevant for the long haul.
There's no real rush to get ahead in Pokemon GO. Even if it starts to fade a little after its ludicrously fantastic launch, there are millions of people who will be just getting into the game over the weeks to come. Maybe you're one of them -- after all, the game just launched in Canada, and Japan is still waiting for it.
But while others may proceed at a leisurely pace to catch 'em all, let's assume that's not for you. If the thought of having other teams control the Gym near your house makes your blood boil, or you simply have dreams of becoming the very best (like no one ever was), you're going to need to level up faster.