To millions of people around the world currently playing the most popular mobile game in history, Pokémon Go, the act of catching Pokémon has seemingly gotten more difficult. In the beginning (just a few weeks ago), having a Pokémon escape from a Poké Ball was a rare occurrence that only became more frequent as players attempted to capture creatures with a higher CP. However, after the most recent update to the Pokémon Go app, players are noticing a frustratingly high frequency of even low level Pokémon escaping, two, three, even four or five times before a successful capture.
As with all mobile apps, Pokémon Go has experienced its share of growing pains early on. Some were the result of errors in the game’s construction, like inaccessible servers and privacy concerns. Others were more the result of those playing it, like unsuspecting players being robbed, players falling off cliffs or illegally crossing international borders. Still, none of those issues have stopped thousands from storming Central Park in New York City or kept hundreds of people from wading into the ocean in Jacksonville, FL scrambling after a Blastoise.
Now it seems like those growing pains will continue. Recently, mobile gamemaker Niantic updated its mobile app to address some of the game’s issues. But in a somewhat controversial move, they instituted the biggest change yet — locking out third party apps, such as PokéVision, from being able to track the locations of Pokémon creatures within the game, thereby forcing players to use the Nearby Tab, which has been buggy for weeks.
Those weren’t the only changes to take place, however. Users on Reddit noticed the catch rate for Pokémon have become increasingly difficult — even on low-level creatures. Conspiracy theorists will likely claim Niantic just wants players to burn through Poké Balls at a rate higher than they can collect them from Pokéstops, forcing them to spend money purchasing more Poké Balls. That’s not entirely far-fetched. Like most game companies, Niantic is in the business of turning fun into profit, and the Google-based startup is well on its way to doing just that. In fact, analysts are predicting Pokémon Go could bring in as much as $750 million this year alone.
However, much of that money is streaming in from ad revenue on social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google — meaning, most players aren’t dropping $10 on 200 addition Poké Balls, when all they have to do is sit and wait at a group of Pokéstops for a few minutes. Even the first person to catch all but the rarest of Pokémon in North America only spent a couple hundred dollars on his month-long quest. And one player was able to hit level 40 with his trainer by simply sitting in his office window, running a bot and spending no money whatsoever.
Is it possible that Niantic and its partner, The Pokémon Company (of which Nintendo owns a 32 percent stake), were expecting the millions of players enjoying the game to willingly spend $5 or $10 multiple times in a month? Perhaps with that not happening as they expected, the company needed to do something to encourage players to open up their virtual wallets — and they needed to do it quickly, before the luster of the new app wore off.
However, while city players (those near a seemingly endless supply of Pokéstops) most likely won’t feel this pinch, it may be the rural players who will most likely leave the service, as both locating and capturing Pokémon (the sole purpose of the game) could become too costly — too little reward, for too great an investment. That’s not to say that either Pokémon Go or Niantic are soon to fail, but when users begin jumping ship due to game mechanics being changed for whatever reason, it’s never a good sign.
Are you experiencing any setbacks in the catch rate in Pokémon Go? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.