Big things are happening behind the scenes at Niantic for Pokémon GO. Today it’s been announced that 10,500 Sprint stores in the US will become PokeStops and gyms, and then supposedly a similar deal with Starbucks goes live tomorrow. And what’s the point of branding deals without a way to get people ultra-engaged with your game again?
That’s where this new mystery announcement comes in. I’ve just heard from The Pokémon Company International that on Monday, December 12th, both they and Niantic will be revealing details “about the addition of more Pokémon to Pokémon GO, one of the most popular mobile games of the year,” which is their exact phrasing.
This echoes something fans have spotted on promotion for the not-yet-officially-announced Starbucks deal, which promised “More Pokémon are coming to Pokémon GO.”
In my mind, there are only two things this means. Obviously, we can officially rule out that this was a whole lot of smoke over no fire and Starbucks just misprinted something. But I also don’t think it would be something as small as opening up region-exclusive Pokémon to the entire world either.
So, that leaves two options. One is that Niantic has finally gotten around to adding in the Legendary Birds and/or Mewtwo to the game at last, the final four Pokémon that aren’t in the game. Or this really is ~100 Gen 2 Pokémon arriving.
I’m leaning toward the latter, as I’ve said in earlier pieces. Why?
The Birds and Mewtwo would be only four new Pokémon added to the game, no matter how cool they may be. But rather, in the wake of these new deals with Sprint and Starbucks, which are likely to turn those stores in PokeStops, the idea would be to get people out and actually playing consistently again. And since I highly doubt that this is all leading to Zapdos spawning only at Starbucks and Articuno at Sprint and Moltres at…I don’t know, Piggly Wiggly, I have to believe that it's a larger update to the game that will drive people outside in search of dozens of new Pokemon, not just a few select ones.
Gen 2 makes the most sense when it comes to Niantic and The Pokémon Company trying to promote a massive resurgence of play in order to maximize these branding deals. No, the game will not reach summer 2016 levels, but it doesn’t need to. Gen 2 will boost engagement above and beyond any other update the game has seen so far, including the Buddy System, and Halloween and Thanksgiving events, which is perfect for the timing of these new deals.
I’ve also talked about how a December Gen 2 update is sort of genius on Niantic’s end as well, as given the weather in many regions, it would almost force players to buy things like Incense so they don’t have to go outside to play, or Incubators, to maximize their time spent walking outside when they actually do venture out. Obviously it would be nice if Niantic waited until say, May to release Gen 2, and the weather was nice in most places again, but this is the world of mobile games, and five or six months is an eternity. And, as has been noted, this is only the second of seven generations of Pokémon in existence, so even with a “rushed” Gen 2 release, there is still years and years of potential content to come.
In short, there really isn’t any way this isn’t going to be a huge update to Pokémon GO, no matter how you slice it. Either we are going to have our first legendary event announced on the 12th, or it really is the unveiling of Gen 2, which will be the biggest update to the biggest mobile game in history, which really is a watershed moment. The timing may be a bit weird, but Niantic will do what they must to retain and engage players through these dark winter months, and to prove to their marketing partners that the game is worth investing in.
We will find out more on the 12th, but knowing how things leak, perhaps before then as well. Stay tuned.
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