The one about shiny Rayquaza and event fatigue

Yesterday Niantic posted a quick update detailing Rayquaza’s return to Pokemon GO and announcing another special Raiding Weekend event that will take place from Mar 15 – 18. Naturally, one would expect that such news will be met with overwhelming applause and praise from the player base, especially if considering that Rayquaza hasn’t been around for more than a year and that it’s a fan favorite legendary Pokemon. That did not happen – it did not happen at all.

Let’s talk about that and see what is going on in the Pokemon GO player base.

Event fatigue

We’ve read a ton of messages, tweets and e-mails highlighting the same thing: players are getting fatigued by the constant stream of events. Not all of them, but a fair chunk of the player base is starting to care less and less about the currently running in-game event. We got so much feedback that we’ve decided to do a poll on Twitter about this topic and the results were quite unexpected:

47% of poll takers said that they do feel “event fatigue”, while 53% said that they don’t feel it. A naive way of looking at this data would be to say “here you go, most people still like events” and consider it done. A better way to look at the results of this poll is to say this: the player base is deeply divided about event fatigue, with one half feeling it and the other half enjoying the current cadence.

We are not arguing for (or against) less (or more) events, we’re just observing the results. This is our largest poll to date, with more than 12000 players taking part in it, and we think it’s fairly representative of the current state of “player base mind”.

About that shiny Rayquaza

Following up on the topic of event fatigue, it is becoming apparent that the “events as content” strategy only works if there’s a strong incentive to participate in the event. We’ve already seen the effects of this “rule” a couple of times in the past, but it became completely evident with Niantic’s recent decision not to release the shiny version of Rayquaza during the upcoming Rayquaza Special Raid Weekend Event.

Players are expressing disappointment about this everywhere (reddit, Twitter, FB comments, Instagram) and it’s not really surprising – shiny releases have been a key incentive / reward for participating in (almost) every event in recent memory. We’re not here to defend either side, but I can understand why someone would feel disappointed – even if you don’t care about the shiny form, the recent events created an illusion that a new shiny is mandatory.

Which brings us to this: why is Niantic doing a Rayquaza event without its shiny form?

Judging by the state of the game and the availability of counters, it seems like they simply want to provide everyone with another chance to catch Rayquaza’s base form. The only time when you had the chance to catch Ray Ray was from February 9th to March 16th 2018 (see Legendary Pokémon Rayquaza and new Dragon and Flying types available from February 9th 2018 and Rayquaza won the Legendary Week) and that’s more or less it.

Most of the other Legendary Pokemon were available more than once, but Rayquaza has been patiently waiting and we guess that there’s a lot of new and returning players who never had the chance to fight it and catch it.

Conclusion

Many of you feel understandably disappointed with the fact that we’re not getting a shiny Rayquaza, but I want to provide a different way of looking at the situation. You’re not disappointed because we’re not getting a shiny form, you’re disappointed because we are not getting an external incentive to participate.

To me, this is indicative of a deeper problem with the game play. If players need an external incentive to perform an action, it means that the action they are performing is not fun enough (or the consequences of doing the action are not rewarding enough). Take Ingress for example – you don’t need an external incentive to destroy your opponent’s portals, the game loop rewards you accordingly and you will always participate in that action.

I, for one, don’t think that the “events as content” strategy is future proof. Pokemon GO needs a long term internal game play loop, operated and powered by the actions of your local community (gym rework, please!), if it wants to remain relevant and engaging in the years to come.

Feel free to share your feedback in the comments below, I look forward to reading them and engaging in a discussion about this hot problem.

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