Ditto is live in Pokémon GO. It marks an important occasion what we might call a struggling sensation: not only is the creature the last of the non-legendary original Pokémon to be introduced into the game, it’s also the end of a long, complicated guessing game on the part of the Pokémonning public. Ditto is the first Pokémon added into the game since launch, and that, on its own, marks a major milestone and something to watch as the game prepares to release more creatures either in large groups or piecemeal.
This is not the only new content we’ve gotten since launch. We’ve also had appraisals, the buddy system, catch-bonuses for medals and the regular series of tweaks to gyms and various other gameplay systems. There’s a big difference here, though: all of those are lateral additions, changing the way the fundamentals of the game operate for all players. Ditto, however, represents something that appeals to even those few level 40 hardcore users out there: it’s something new on top, another carrot on a stick for those that have chomped all the other ones available to them. This is key.
It’s an important distinction. Lateral content usually does little to get me playing again: it’s the sort of thing that would have been great at launch, but not so important for an advanced player. It’s like Fallout 4, which released new item packs and abilities for building ingame “settlements.” A fun concept, but I had already poured so much energy into building settlements by that point that the idea of turning it on to make use of the new stuff seemed tiring. Instead, I waited until the developer released new areas to explore and then experienced the other content as I played through that stuff.
As far as new content goes, it’s pretty limited. It’s a single Pokémon. And yet it gives even someone with a complete Pokédex a reason to turn the thing on, and the fact this it’s been timed with the Thanksgiving event means that player might stick around for some stardust or to stretch out towards that next level. New endgame content in the form of new Pokémon is what’s going to prove the next major testing ground for this game, especially since there isn’t any other meaningful progression mechanic available.
Ultimately, this game needs both. Endagme content brings people back, lateral content keeps them there. The best path forward right now is to integrate major new mechanics in the form of PvP battling, single-player gym battles and in a perfect world, a brand new battle system that looks more like a traditional Pokémon game. Once that’s in place, new Pokémon can lure lapsed players back to a better game.