Pokémon Go successfully pulled off its first global ticketed event over the weekend, but the jury is out among players as to whether it was entirely worth the asking price.
Eager Pokéfans who stumped up Ł7.99/$7.99 for the game's Colossal Discovery day were treated to a bundle of in-game rewards - namely 10 raid passes (individually, each normally 79p) to use during the event, and early access to a new legendary creature via an exclusive questline.
As the first event of its type - and one which demanded you pay up using real-world money rather than in-game PokéCoins - its announcement was treated with scepticism by some who saw it as simply another way to monetise the game. And I've written before about how this event had to walk a fine line to reward those who paid while not permanently putting off those who want to continue playing the game for free.
So, did it do enough to justify its existence? I'd say yes, just about. But I'd also recommend several tweaks to the formula for when developer Niantic inevitably does it all again.
The weekend's featured Regirock, Regice and Registeel raids were plentiful and near-constant on all gyms during event hours - whether you had a ticket or not.
Raid difficulty was lowered, so three players could easily handle them (useful, for example, in communities where only some people had bought a ticket and wanted to do lots of them).
And while this legendary trio are not beloved by Pokémon Go fans, Niantic made them much more attractive by releasing their Shiny forms for the first time and adding Lock-On (a strong, TMable fast attack) to their moveset - a surprising and welcome buff which made all three meta-relevant within PVP.
The event's questline smartly avoided prescribing any particular order to the raids you completed - letting you simply target whatever boss was nearby.
All in all, for those who did pay, it felt like Niantic wanted to ensure you were able to make use of the 10 passes you were given.
Finally, it's worth noting the wider context of the event - the lore-appropriate release of Regigigas akin to how it is available in the main series games, and the fact it simply offered early access to the creature rather than locking it behind a paywall. For those who didn't pony up, its release in EX Raids within a couple of weeks means there's not long to wait to get it for free (similar to how Celebi/Jirachi were first released via Go Fests).
What didn't work?
Going into the event there was still confusion as to what else you would get from its questline and how long it would take to complete. Early reports from players in New Zealand and Australia - first to hit the 11am local start time - revealed it was not a lengthy affair. I finished the questline and all my 10 raids within two hours - by about 1pm, six hours before the event ended. After that, there was little else to do.
While the questline did offer a couple of interesting Pokémon encounters (Tyranitar, Cranidos), Niantic's brief description of its item rewards (a worthless Sinnoh Stone, a coveted Unova Stone) was more or less everything else it had to offer. This is in contrast to the game's Go Fest questlines, which offer premium items such as Incense, Lures, Incubators and Premium Raid Passes. The included exclusive avatar pose does little but advertise other such poses are on offer to buy.
One welcome addition - research tasks from PokéStops which could give out the newly Shiny Skarmory - was not well advertised, and felt like a paid version of the previously free (and much-missed) Research Day experience.
Regigigas was a wet and kind of stressful few hours to organise... an interesting experiment but not one I'd repeat too often pic.twitter.com/j91dY71qQh— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsEG) November 2, 2019
In the end, much of the event's asking price seemed anchored to those 10 raid passes - and although I had no trouble using them, it felt miserly they were limited to within the confines of the raid event when Regi raids were around all weekend. If you chose to pay up, your passes should be yours to use whenever - and I've seen the unfavourable price comparisons to the game's standard bulk raid pass boxes (although, of course, without the questline attached).
Lastly, on the questline itself, I didn't feel its brief interactions with Professor Willow lived up to its billing as "a Special Research story event". I've been enjoying the game's Team Go Rocket storyline (which features background lore doled out in chapters via Niantic's Looming in the Shadows story blog) - and there was nothing here of a similar nature. For two years now, Pokémon Go's in-game story has been limited to short phrases from the Prof as he stands hunched in the same pose somewhere in the mountains. It felt a missed oppurtunity not to include more story from himself and other characters here.
How should next time look?
With the format established and a decent - if not hugely widespread - take-up this time around, it seems inevitable Niantic will return to this formula in the future. (Indeed, with this week's launch of Cobalion - the first of Gen 5's Regi-like Swords of Justice gang - Keldeo seems a likely next candidate.)
But before it does come back, I'd like to see a few improvements. Better rewards during its questline, for example - the kinds of items players can't get free elsewhere (premium Lures!) so the ticket pays for itself more easily - and actual premium raid passes given at the start of the event which can then be used later, should a participant's time be limited. Make the ticket as rewarding as a Battle Pass - which pays for itself and then some, and is attractive on its own merits.
Crucially for me, I'd want a stronger storyline which feels more like a premium experience, rather than a short set of quest steps delivered in the same way as the game's free special research.
And lastly, in the best possible way, I'd like to see this kind of event take place once or twice a year at most. I have no problem putting money into a free game I get a lot of time and enjoyment out of - but to make these events feel special they need to come around only when appropriate - and for a price which does not begin to feel like a subscription. It has to be for the right Pokémon, and it cannot be in place of another kind of event (ie. Research Days) or the semi-regular Mythical questlines which have until now been free.
Three years in, Pokémon Go's community has formed around the game's current rate of playing and paying - and while creative ways to continue funding Niantic's hugely lucrative nest egg are no bad thing outright, it feels like the balance still needs a little adjustment here before players are Regi to do it all again.