When looking forward to the future, it's always important to remember how you've gotten where you are today.
2021 has been an eventful year in Pokemon Go... pun intended. We've had a lot go on, and it's been such a storm of note-worthy points that it can all really get lost in the fog of the year's end. Ah, but we're here to remind you a bit about just what happened along the way! This is not a complete list of 2021's happenings, and early warning; we do poke fun at Niantic's expense along the way, but it's all intended in good fun. So let's wrap this up and take a look at what 2021 had to offer!
Setting the Stage
Before we begin the list, it's important to note just where we were as we entered the year. The Go Beyond update had just dropped about a month before, and even before that we were given access to our first Mega Evolutions. There had been... problems... with both of these additions to the game, but we Niantic had already largely fixed the Mega Evolution issues, and would soon be working on the problems entailed within Go Beyond.
Part of the Season of Celebration, Go Tour: Kanto was revealed in January. The scope was outlined, but it wasn't yet clear just how much of a big deal it would become. We now know that the intent was to set this event up as a second major yearly celebration in a manner similar to Go Fest, which is now set to continue into Go Tour: Johto in 2022. When this event was announced, we reported that several recently discontinued Community Day moves would be available during the proceedings, which was information that was available to us through official channels. However, the official news post made by Niantic did not highlight this fact initially, which led to a bit of confusion.
On January 11, Niantic made a small mistake and gave the move Weather Ball: Water to Primeape, a move that it can’t learn in the main series. Considering just how powerful this move was at the time, this was a huge boon that excited a great many players, although many more realized that it wouldn’t stick around for long. Primepe was banned from the GBL and Pokemon HOME, and lost its ability to learn the move shortly after the error was discovered, but anyone that TMed for it still had the move at the time. This was later patched out, and players were awarded a 50,000 Stardust compensation for the mistake.
Ho-oh was given access to Earthquake, which made it much, much better in the Master League! In fact, it was literally the top-ranked Master League Pokemon on PvPoke for a while, though this came with a word of caution from the site owner as it was a bit more situational than it seemed. The rainbow chicken is still pretty high on the list to this day, though!
Remember when we had to transfer Legendary/Mythical Pokemon one at a time? Hard to imagine that changed not too long ago, in early February 2021. This was a pretty important quality of life improvement that made Pokemon storage management friendlier towards players than it had ever been in the past.
Willow got tired of Niantic’s crap and figured that he’d go and visit the Pokemon Company to see if he could play somewhere else because the real world is objectively the worst region in the greater Pokemon canon. After he couldn’t get a passport to Pasio, Creatures Inc. slapped his face on a card and told him to go home.
Trainers, Thanks for your patience while we looked into the Pokémon GO Tour: Kanto ticket issues. We will be hosting a bonus event for all paid ticket holders at a later date. Please stay tuned for details.— Niantic Support (@NianticHelp) February 20, 2021
Niantic doesn’t always make mistakes, but when they do, they don’t always compromise for them either. In this case, there was an issue with players who didn’t purchase the Kanto Tour ticket but had access to ticket perks. Since this would be seemingly unfair to those who bought a ticket, an extra month to claim some goodies was added.
Hats are not a new aspect of the Pokemon Go experience, and the Flower Crown in particular had been used before for Eevee and its line. The reason that this makes it onto our list is the fact that it was the entire line that could have hats: Happiny, Chansey, and Blissey. By that point, it was becoming more and more common for new hats to only be available to one member of a given evolutionary line, so seeing a return to form was nice.
Trainers, we're happy to share that we've increased the maximum number of friends you can have in Pokémon GO to 400!— Niantic Support (@NianticHelp) April 5, 2021
Misery must really love company, because apparently 200 wasn’t enough? 400 should do, right…? All kidding aside, this was actually an issue when the PvP system first launched at the end of 2018 due to the requirement of being Ultra Friends with other players in order to battle them remotely. Since it takes time to progress through the Friendship system, having more friends was a good thing.
Trainers, as an additional make up, we’ve added a free box to the Shop in-app, containing 30 Poké Balls and 1 Rocket Radar. This box will be available until April 29th, 7 p.m. PT. Thank you again for your patience while we worked on a resolution!— Niantic Support (@NianticHelp) April 23, 2021
Team Rocket encountered a few issues and were disabled for a while. Rumor has it Giovanni had a midlife crisis when he started looking around the real world and discovered that nothing he could ever do would be as evil as Niantic’s business model.
This… still hurts a bit. Xerneas was simultaneously one of the most hyped and dreaded Legendary Pokemon in the game for a very long time. We wanted it to put Fairy Types on the map, we wanted it to dominate the Master League… but no, our poor light-bright deer just couldn’t get any good fast moves. It’s not really Niantic’s fault, as its move pool really didn’t translate well into Pokemon Go, but it still burns a bit!
Sylveon was the last of the “Eeveelutions” to drop, and it turned out to have a fairly steep evolution requirement at 70 hearts earned. While this wasn’t terribly difficult to do, Niantic was nice enough to give us a window of time where a mere 7 hearts would suffice.
Trainers, to make up for issues with Shiny Galarian Ponyta, we will be adding these bonuses from June 1st, 2021 at 10:00 am to June 8th, 2021, at 10:00 am local time:— Niantic Support (@NianticHelp) May 27, 2021
- Galarian Ponyta appearing more often in 7km Eggs
- Timed Research featuring Galarian Ponyta plus bonus items
Someone forgot to hit the “make the pony shiny” button, so Niantic had to give us a makeup for the problem. I can officially report that I, for one, did not get a shiny Galarian Ponyta out of this despite the trouble of not actually being affected by the initial problem in any way whatsoever, so I’m currently demanding that the money that I didn’t actually spend on a free event be returned to me. Niantic Support still has no idea how to respond to my demands.
As this great blue and green planet made its rotation around the great orb of plasma that sustains it, the tilt of its axis eventually positioned it in such a way that its northern hemisphere could enjoy more of the thermal energy from the sun than it had for the previous half of its orbit. Oh, and a bunch of Pokemon jumped on a plane and booked a hotel room for a 6-month vacation on the opposite side of the globe.
This was… the big one. Probably the defining issue of the year, Niantic announced that they would be rolling back Covid bonuses despite the recent peak in Covid cases. The reduction of Pokestop/Gym range in particular sparked a huge backlash from the community, and Niantic did... basically nothing for a long time. They were horribly slow with any meaningful response, which only threw salt into these wounds. The issue was eventually resolved, but…. Well, you can read more about this in the August section. Yeah.
June changed the way that we look at raids… literally. Gyms were given a shiny new coat of paint, and we were given accolades for our performance…. some of the times. This change was largely cosmetic, but it was still a nice change of pace.
Here we go, Go Fest is here! An absolute glut of important Pokemon were available in raids in particular, and were were finally given access to the Mythical Pokemon Meloet-what? What’s that ring in the sky? HOLY CRAP THAT HAS TO BE HOOPA! WE’RE GETTING HOOPA ALREADY? HOW DO WE GET HOOPA NOW THAT - …huh? What? …the heck is a “meloetta”?
We expected a lot for the Ultra Unlock, but this was not on our radar. The sudden skip to Galar was pretty unique, and giving us the main duo of the region so early was a bit of a shock. This sent a number of shockwaves through the community, but the biggest was the fact that Zacian: Hero of Many Battles forme took the Master League by storm. Fun fact: we admittedly underestimated its impact on the meta on release, but oh boy we were fast to correct that mistake!
Trainers - we’re looking forward to sharing our plans as a result of the task force on September 1, but one thing does not have to wait! From now on, 80 meters will be the base interaction radius for PokéStops and Gyms globally. (1/2)— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp) August 25, 2021
Remember in the June section where the Covid fiasco hit? It took this long for meaningful action. Niantic announced that they planned to start a task force consisting of their people and prominent members of the PoGo community. They also set the old Covid-distance for Pokestops and Gyms as the new standard, and announced that we could look forward to official letters outlining their plans. At the end of August and also on the first day of September, the content of their letters was released, and the actual value of these letters has been… debatable.
The 4th season in all of Pokemon Go; the Season of Mischief capitalized on the very unexpected appearance of Hoopa during Go Fest, and actually set up a fairly fun story that would start with the introduction of Hoopa: Confined, and lead to us unlocking Hoopa: Unbound. And this change was brought to us by….
Easily one of the biggest potential shake-ups in game history came from… a poodle. While the event itself was nothing grand, the ability to change formes had (and still has) very far-reaching implications. Of course, we’re still waiting for Niantic to really make use of this function in the plethora of Pokemon that can use it in the main series.
Less out-of-the-blue than Zacian and Zamazenta, the introduction of Zarude as a movie tie-in was still a bit surprising. What’s more it actually turned out to be pretty good overall, holding a solid rank in raids and the Master League. Here’s hoping we get more chances to nab this monkey in the future!
Halloween featured some interesting new additions to the game. Phantump’s evolution Trevenant proved to be a strong contender in the PvP scene, while the Pumpkaboo family introduced a new size mechanic that could see more use in the future. Players also had an opportunity to obtain Darkrai with Sludge Bomb, though it’s arguable that the Candy XL was more useful. On that note, the event guaranteeing Candy XL from walking with Buddy Pokemon was a nice touch. The GBL Halloween Cup and in-game Lavender Town music were also back this year.
🧵 (1/5) Trainers, to celebrate 2021’s last two Community Day events, we’re giving you some extra-special goodies! In addition to the bonuses already announced for Shinx Community Day, the following will be added…— Niantic Support (@NianticHelp) November 16, 2021
As a new push to continue the work on their “metaverse”, Niantic gave players the ability to power-up Pokestops and Gyms so that players could obtain superior rewards from them.
And also receive free labor for their AR project.
Special delivery! You can now save postcards from friends across the globe! What good do they do, you ask? They add one more thing to collect in a game whose entire identity is collection, but this collection has no tangible benefit on gameplay!
All joking aside; thank you Niantic for what you've done in 2021. Your work has brought a lot of people together, and given us what is a beloved pass-time for many. It's hard to say where 2022 will take us, but on behalf of the Gamepress Pokemon Go staff and to every one of our readers:
Thank you for joining us during 2021! Happy New Year, stay safe, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2022!