Mega Evolutions were introduced to Pokémon GO recently, with Beedrill Special Research and raids for Mega Charizard X and Y, Mega Blastoise, and Mega Venusaur. This is a super exciting addition to the game. I know personally, Megas are one of my favorite features in all of Pokémon. However, from what we’ve seen initially, the implementation is sketchy at best, and downright bad at worst. So, what’s the issue?
The Energy System Is The Issue
So, let’s break down what we know about the system so far.
Mega Charizard X and Y, Venusaur, and Blastoise cost 200 to Mega Evolve initially, and then 50 to Mega Evolve every time after. Beedrill, on the other hand, is 100 initially and then 25 after. Do note that this discount is mon-specific, so if you decide you want to Mega Evolve a different Charizard, you’re back up to costing 200 Energy. (Also, Mega Charizard X and Y both cost 200 initially, per form, per mon)
Cool. Fine. So what’s the energy generation like?
You get Mega Energy from completing Mega Raids, that energy being species-specific. That is to say, when you complete a Mega Blastoise raid, you get Mega Blastoise Energy. When you complete a Mega Venusaur raid, you get Mega Venusaur Energy, and the same for the others. As of right now, you cannot convert that energy to use it for any other species.The amount of Mega Energy you get varies based on how quickly you’re able to clear, from 35 Energy to 55.
So, to get your first Mega Charizard, it will take between 4-6 raids. Repeat this again, two more times, for Blastoise and Venusaur, and then again for your second Mega Charizard form. At this point, you’ve spent 16-24 raid passes, and you now have the ability to Mega Evolve each mon. Once.
If you’re not spending any money or coins on passes, this means it’s taken you between half a month and an entire month to complete your first set of Mega evolutions. If you decide you want to use those megas ever again, it costs yet more raid passes. While this is tenable with daily Free passes, it’s certainly difficult, especially since we don’t know the rate at which Megas are going to rotate, and it’s kinda not “good enough” to get real use out of your megas. Especially since this involves completely skipping out on every other raid for that time period, which could be a valuable Legendary! And that’s not even accounting for people who can’t use their free daily passes. Maybe they’re quarantining, maybe they’re in lockdown. Maybe the Pokémon they need Mega Energy for just doesn’t show up to battle. As with any limited-resource system, management is key, but this pushes people a bit too hard to be fair.
As a side note, why is there a 999 cap to Mega Energy per species? There’s no cap to candy, or stardust, or any other individual resource beyond your bag space. There’s no player-friendly reason for this limit to exist.
Jumping back to the mon-specific Mega Energy again. In total, across all games (including the Pokémon in Gen 6 that have yet to be released), there are 48 Mega Evolutions. As stated above, Starter megas cost 200 per initial evolution, and Beedrill costs 100. If we assume this is connected to their buddy candy walk distance (Starters take 3km/candy, Beedrill takes 1km/candy), we can get a hint of what other costs are going to be. Keep in mind that many of the other Mega-eligible megas are even harder to walk. Garchomp, Metagross, and Salamence are all 5km buddies, and then Legendary Megas like Mewtwo, Latios, and Latias are even worse at 20km! While we don’t know exactly what Mega Evo costs are gonna be like, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were higher than 200.
But, let’s be generous, and work from a minimum, and say that each mega costs, on average, 150 energy to initially evolve. Going further, you have no interest in using Megas regularly, but instead only want the Mega Dex entry.
This will total out to 7200 Energy. Then let’s say you get about 40 Mega Energy per raid. (Sorry about the overflow, but nice numbers are easier). This means, in total, you need to do 180 Mega Raids to complete your full Mega Dex. That’s 180 raids over the duration of the release of Megas during which you can’t do any of the current T5s, or other raids you might be interested in.
However, if you’re free to play, then you can’t even really use your megas! Each expenditure of your Mega Energy only allows you to rent your Mega for 4 hours. If you only have your daily raid pass, then you’re only getting one raid with that! You can, of course, get two raids if you skip the previous day. Niantic sometimes has Raid Day events where you get up to 5 free raid passes, but those are very rare. This restriction just unduly reduces the value of any investment of Mega Energy you might make, and it results in a feelbad system where, in order to feel like you’re getting “full value” out of your Mega Energy, you’ve gotta raid for like 4 hours.
This is only partially Mega-specific, and is functionally more a critique of the new speed-based raid system overall, but it does have a meaningful effect on how players will interact with Mega raids.
As stated above, Mega Raids reward faster clears with more Mega Energy. While the exact breakdown of how quickly you need to clear to get a certain amount of energy is yet unknown (and seems to be getting tweaked behind the scenes), in short, “a fast clear can give up to 55 Energy, and if you clear too slowly, you only get 35 Energy.” Effectively, this is Niantic rewarding people for having good teams of raid counters, and in many cases, just a lot of players. However, because you’re generally limited in how many raid passes you have, in effect this just sets the default to 55 energy, and then you’re punished for not being fast enough.
However, in the case of remote invites, for many people without communities, and those who are trying to quarantine or socially distance, you’re gonna be capped at 6 people: you, and up to 5 people you can invite. This means that you want to make sure you invite the 5 best people you can, in order to maximize the number of rewards you get.
As a consequence, though, this now means you’re likely to leave out less prepared players from your raid invites! If I’m stuck choosing between inviting someone with full maxed counters or a Lv25 player, I’m actively disincentivized from inviting the Lv25. The more people in a raid who are underperforming, the less energy you get. The less energy you get, the more raids you have to do, and the more raid passes you need to spend to get the same Mega Energy. As a result, the lower level players, the ones who are most likely to need help, are going to get left out more often.
How Can Niantic Fix This?
Niantic has already shown that they’re listening. Niantic Indigo made this comment on Reddit, and the official Pokémon GO Twitter posted this tweet. They’ve shown they’re listening, and that means there’s a real chance this system gets better, and more player-friendly.
I don’t claim to speak for the entire community, so for this, I’m just a guy with some opinions. So here are some of the thoughts!
Reduce Mega Evolution costs by 80%, and make Evos only last for 1 hour (rather than 4). This would mean getting your Mega Charizard will only cost 10 Energy (rather than 50). While, in the end, it doesn’t reduce costs by that much, it does significantly reduce the amount of wasted time. Mega Evolution lasting for 4 hours is just...not a player-friendly length of time. The required investment is too high, and it just feels awful because you’re wasting so much of your mega, and the payoff (dealing more damage in a raid) just doesn’t feel worth it. While, yes, permanent megas or upkeep-less megas would be nicer, this would at least make the system feel less bad to use.
Otherwise, we need multiple non-raid routes to obtain Mega Energy. Keep in mind that, at the moment, Beedrill Energy is actually finite. You get 175 Energy from completing the Special Research, which lets you Mega Evolve one Beedrill 4 times (and not enough to Mega two separate Beedrill). After that, you have no way of getting more (as they’re not in Mega Raids), and there’s no clear sign of a system coming to get more. One idea I’ve seen thrown around a lot is being able to walk your buddy for Energy, maybe 5 Energy per kilometer walked while they are set as your Buddy. Similar to the Buddy Candy system. Additionally, it would be nice to get some sort of convertible “Rare Energy,” a la rare candy, that can be turned into any needed Mega Energy, maybe as a reward from raids (mega or non-mega), or from Research Tasks.
As Mega Evolution is, in main series canon (and even according to Professor Willow’s dialogue in the questline!), linked to a bond between the trainer and their Pokémon, add some link between Buddy Level and the Mega Energy ecosystem. Friendship Level can reduce how much dust Special Trades cost with other trainers, why not let higher level Buddies Mega Evolve for cheaper?
Also, as stated above, remove the 999 Mega Energy limit. There’s no good reason for it to exist. With consistent 50 Energy clears, it only takes 20 raids to surpass that, which isn’t even that unrealistic for a good raid boss over the course of a month if you’re willing to throw some money at raid passes.
Why the Clickbaity Title?
The current implementation of Mega Evolutions doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s part of a running trend of important game pieces being gated behind money. Remote Passes being separate from normal Raid Passes, Elite TMs making Legacy Pokémon cost money (one per season of GBL is far from enough, given the rate at which new Exclusive Moves are released, but this argument is for another time), Shadow Mewtwo being gated behind GoFest, and the Dragon Week Deino hatch rate (which you can read more about at the Silph Road here) are only some of the ways that Niantic is over-monetizing their game to the detriment of their players. Megas aren’t a single slip. They’re part of a frustrating and scary pattern that honestly makes the game less fun to play.
“If you don’t like Megas, just don’t use them!”
I’ve seen this argument floating around the internet quite a bit since Megas were released, and frankly, it’s awful. I’m complaining because I believe this system can be better. I believe that, when prompted, Niantic will be willing to tweak the Mega Evolution system into something that’s more fun and less stressful to use. They’ve already shown that they’re listening, and that’s only because of the vocal people talking about how much they dislike Mega Evolution’s current implementation. It’s because I love Pokémon GO, and because I love Megas, that I’m speaking out. I want to interact with all facets of this game, but first they need to be worth that interaction.
At the moment, the Mega system isn’t fun or exciting. It’s stressful, and it’s scary. It breeds FOMO (fear of missing out) so strongly, to the point where I don’t even want to Mega Evolve anything for fear of wasting resources. And I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. As I said before, I love Megas Evolution. It’s one of my favorite mechanics in Pokémon, and I want to be able to feel as hyped in GO as I do when playing on console. But at the moment, the entire system is just frustrating. Not only is it overly resource-intensive and expensive, it just feels bad. There are really exciting things about the system, too! The team damage buff with Megas enables a new exciting level of strategy and coordination. It makes Pokémon that were otherwise mediocre in raids (sorry, Blastoise) suddenly more than viable! And beyond that, they just look cool! And it’s because of those exciting aspects that the current implementation is so upsetting. There’s so much potential, and so many fun new toys to play with, and it still just doesn’t feel worth it.
To anyone at Niantic, if you’re reading this, 1) hi! 2) thank you for being willing to listen to the community. I believe that Mega Evolution can be in a place where it’s satisfying to use, and I do want to believe you’re willing to make the changes necessary to make that happen.
And to everyone who’s been vocal with their constructive criticisms of the system, thank you as well. This is how progress is made.