With 2018 coming to a close, the official Pokémon GO Twitter has been feeling nostalgic and tweeting all about what we’ve seen in the game over the past 365 days. It might seem a little silly considering Pokémon GO’s official anniversary is in early July, but as it stands, 2018 has been an extremely eventful and successful year for the mobile game that took the world by storm at launch.
Back on track
After the initial spike in popularity when the game first released, it was hard to deny the drop in activity among a lot of players when Niantic didn’t seem to be making a lot of progress with updates. Thankfully, it seems that has all but turned around in Niantic’s favor over the past year, with Pokémon GO’s player base actually becoming larger now than it was back in July of 2016. Quite a long way the game’s come!
And the updates just keep on coming. 2018 was a year filled with new content and exciting new features in Pokémon GO that really brought the fun back into playing the game and made it feel like it was worth opening the app again.
One of the most anticipated features in Pokémon GO from the very start, Niantic finally gave us the Friend feature we’d all been waiting for. While it did feel overdue, we can admit that it was at least implemented in its very best iteration for us, with friending other players finally bringing us the core mechanic of trading Pokémon to help complete our Pokédexes.
This, alongside being able to send Gifts to your friends on the daily that include helpful items like Poké Balls and Stardust, had us feeling like this was a more connected and social game than ever before.
New forms and Pokémon to discover
Alongside Gifts came another new type of Egg, the very special (and very tropical) 7km Egg. These Eggs brought us the long-awaited and highly anticipated Alolan Forms to Pokémon GO, which felt like another feature that a lot of fans were eagerly waiting for. These forms offered fun new type combinations and new designs that fans of the main series game would recognize from Sun and Moon, while players of Pokémon GO alone could discover as they hatched!
Alolan Forms were just the start, as just a couple months ago Pokémon GO launched it’s next Pokémon Generation update, introducing ‘mon from Generation IV (and subsequently, the Sinnoh Region) into the game. While this is still rolling out periodically as we write this, Niantic has been working steadily on releasing new Pokémon into the app, and we’re glad we at least got some Generation IV before the year’s end.
What might seem like a rather simple and perhaps silly update was actually one of the best quality of life improvements we could have ever gotten added to the game.
Working towards Egg distances or trying to rack up Candy with your Buddy Pokémon could easily become one of the most tedious tasks in Pokémon GO. Needing to have your phone open consistently while you walk (and draining your battery in the process) made hitting these milestones particularly difficult and, honestly, undesirable.
With Adventure Sync, Niantic’s allowed us to track out walking distance without having to have our phones open. This improvement is monumental, and that’s not an understatement. Since the addition of that feature, the amount of Candy I’ve gotten and Eggs I’ve hatched has increased exponentially, and with the added benefit of certain item rewards like Poké Balls for hitting distance milestones every week, just… walking around hasn’t been this fun since the original launch in 2016.
Perhaps the most important update to Pokémon GO, even beyond adding new Pokémon to the game, was the addition of Research Tasks. In my experience, Research Tasks breathed a brand new life into the app, and when the update for Research Tasks first launched I found myself outside playing Pokémon GO for the first time in a while.
For one, giving us tangible things to work towards that are doable in a day (as opposed to Medals, which are a more long-term commitment) made playing Pokémon GO feel more significant. Getting rewards for catching a certain amount of Pokémon or finding new Poké Stops made these accomplishments feel way more exciting than they had previously.
For people living in more suburban or rural areas, the Research Tasks especially shined once you hit seven stamps and could start encounters with previously seen Legendary Pokémon. As someone who lives in a more suburban area where people aren’t as actively participating in Raid Battles, this was a godsend. I could finally start catching Pokémon like Moltres or Suicune without having to worry about going into my nearest city to find people who wanted to battle in Raids with me.
These encounters have evolved to include Pokémon like Shedinja, and I suspect that we’ll see the inclusion of more special Pokémon through the use of this feature.
This — all paired with the added more long-term Mythical Pokémon tasks for Mew, Celebi, and Meltan — have allowed people to turn mundane, every-day tasks in Pokémon GO (that they were performing anyway!) into something way more special and rewarding.
I think it’s important to remember that when Pokémon GO first launched in 2016, Niantic only had one other major app under their belt, and its success was in a much more niche market. Considering the absolute massive scale that Pokémon GO launched at, I don’t blame the company for cracking a little under the pressure of it all.
That being said, over the past year it’s easy to say that they’re killing it in Pokémon GO. With Trainer Battles just around the corner and, inevitably, Generation V Pokémon coming at some point in the future, there’s still plenty more content to look forward to when it comes to this little mobile phenomenon.
2018 has been an extremely successful year for Pokémon GO, and we’re looking forward to seeing what else it has in store for us!
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