This post was originally a series of tweets on 8/5/2016. I’m repackaging and expanding on them for posterity.
In August 2016, Pokémon GO released an update that, among other changes, reduced the capture rate of Pokémon. This change lead to me quitting the game. Here’s why.
I live in a suburban area that isn’t particularly Pokéstop dense (but it could be worse). My typical routine was to do a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood that would hit three Pokéstops. At each Pokéstop, I’d get 2-4 Pokéballs. On the walk, I’d see 3-6 Pokémon. After the update, capturing the Pokémon took 2-5 Pokéballs. So, on average, my net loss was about 6 balls per walk. One way I could mitigate that loss is to not try catching all the Pokémon I saw. However, catching Pokémon was the point of the game for me, and catching Pokémon is the main XP generation mechanic in the game.
The problem is that Pokéballs function as the ‘energy’ in typical free-to-play games. They are the resource that is consumed by playing the game, and without which the game cannot be played. However, unlike energy in nearly every other free-to-play game, Pokéballs do not generate over time. The only ways to get more Pokéballs is to go to a Pokéstop, or to spend real dollars to buy them through the in-game store. In order to go to a Pokéstop, you have to walk by Pokémon that you want to capture. So, you can see the dilemma.
I believe Pokémon GO is intended to be played similarly to a JRPG with random battles. A wild Pokémon appears, do you want to fight it? Or conserve resources by running away? I want the XP, I want the experience of capturing, so I won’t back down. That lead to the slow burn of my Pokéball reserves, and the realization that I’d have to routinely pump money into the game to keep playing as I wanted. So, I quit.
There are a few ways this mechanic could be tweaked to make it more player-friendly. One way would be to re-increase the capture rate. Another way that makes more sense to me is to have Pokéstop rewards scale with time away. For example, if I hadn’t visited a Pokéstop in 30 hours, it could give much more loot than if I had visited within 6 hours, which in turn would give more loot than if I had visited within an hour. This sort of adjustment would also help mitigate the opportunity differences between urban and rural players. If your environment is so Pokéstop-sparse that you can only visit one or two a day, this type of change would positively impact your play without detracting from others. The concept would be roughly similar to World of Warcraft’s ‘rest XP’ feature, where players receive a double xp bonus whose length corresponds to the amount of time spent not playing.