Frustration with Exclusive Moves

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I’m cutting out my drawn-out intro. We know the issue. “Frustration” being TM-locked has got to go.

Frustration on Shadow Pokemon is not fun. There’s nothing fun about it. Just let us TM our Shadow Pokemon whenever we want. Every single season of Go Battle League is made worse because of this feature. Every single event is made worse because of this feature. Players are spending less and quitting more because of this feature.

A History

Shadow Pokemon were added to Pokemon Go in July of 2019. They always had an un-TMable move Frustration, and you could Purify them to have that replaced with Return, a TM-able Charge Move.

The “problem” was that Shadow Pokemon looked cool and Purified Pokemon were kinda boring. Shadow Pokemon could be powered up, but were more expensive and limited to Frustration as a primary Charge Move. In March of 2020, right after the launch of the Go Battle League, Shadow Pokemon received a significant 20% buff to become some of the most powerful Pokemon in the game. At this time, it was still not possible to TM Frustration from these Pokemon, but it was announced that would be arriving soon.

  • On March 7th, the first Rocket Takeover happened since this update, allowing players to TM Frustration. The previous Rocket Takeover happened in November 2019 following the release of Rocket Leaders, and the first Rocket Takeover happened in July of 2019 after Team Go Rocket’s initial release. (It’s difficult to find accurate data on when this was announced, but players had a maximum of 5 days notice before this event.)
  • Then the world shut down. I’m putting this here because I am sympathetic to Niantic not knowing how to exactly move forward during these times. That said, it has been almost a year, and Niantic still has not quite figured some things out.
  • Eventually Community Days resumed. Abra, Seedot, and Weedle all were available as Shadow Pokemon and all received Community Days. Players that read my article on Shadow Pokemon to TM This Weekend back in March knew these Community Days could be coming and to prepare, but many weren’t able to. Players that caught Shadow versions of these Pokemon after March 7th were also unable to prepare as there was no time to TM them before their individual Community Days.
  • In July, there were 2 Go Takeover events. The first was to celebrate the release of Rocket Balloons, and the second was the second day of Go Fest. These Takeovers were given a 3 and 0 days notice respectively.
  • Immediately following the Takeover, Magikarp Community Day was announced, again leaving 0 time for this to be TMed before its Community Day. The year rounded out with Porygon, Charmander, Electabuzz, and Magmar, all Shadow Pokemon, all with no announcement before the previous Takeover, and no way to remove Frustration before their event.
  • On December 10th, two days before the year’s Community Day recap, it was announced that for 24 hours Frustration could be TMed. There was a lot of outcry from the community leading up to the event considering 9 months of Shadow Community Day Pokemon still had Frustration in player’s collections.
  • This Community Day only allowed for Pokemon featured in 2019 and 2020 to learn moves upon evolution and this was announced leading up to Community Day, meaning there was no reason to TM older Shadow Community Day Pokemon.
  • In January of 2021, leading up to Pokemon Go Tour: Kanto, Beldum is now able to be evolved with its Community Day move Meteor Mash, unless it’s a Shadow Beldum with Frustration.

GamePress was also initially told by official sources that the Tour would allow the Kanto starters to learn their CD moves upon evolution, and with current trends this looks to be true, though this has not been announced otherwise, making it very difficult for most players to have prepared by TMing Shadow Pokemon back in December.

Anyways, this article isn’t for asking for a Rocket Takeover event right now to be able to TM Shadow Beldum during Hoenn week, because this problem keeps happening. It was immediately obvious following the Takeover last March, and we shouldn’t need to rely on players complaining before every event plus hoping that someone at Niantic that can do something hears us. Frustration has got to go.

The Smeargle Problem

Frustration is one of the biggest examples of “The Smeargle Problem.” The Smeargle Problem is a term I’ve coined to discuss the mechanics that Niantic forgets after release. A lot of care goes into a lot of Pokemon Go mechanics initially, but when it comes to updating existing content, not as much care is taken.

When Smeargle was released, it could learn every move in the game, and it still can- just only the moves that were in the game when Smeargle was released. Psystrike, Aeroblast, Payback and more- Smeargle cannot learn these moves. Another classic example is Solrock and Lunatone, two regional spawns that switched places 3 months after release, and then not again for another year. This could also just as easily be called the Solrock/Lunatone Problem, or the Zangoose/Seviper Problem, or the ETMs during Community Day Problem, or the Spinda Problem, or the Shiny Pokemon Problem, or the Professor Willow’s Birthday Problem, or the Research Task Encounter Problem, or the Tagging Pokemon as Costumed Problem, or the Playing in New Zealand Problem… but no one ever talks about Smeargle, so I call it the Smeargle Problem.

There’s a lot of rotating and recurring content in Pokemon Go that it’s easy for things to fall by the wayside. Seasons may help with some of this in the future. Niantic now has a consistent reminder to revisit regionals and biomes and other easily neglected mechanics. Lackadaisical rotations of hemisphere regionals really impacts player enjoyment. It’s also quite random.

TMing Shadow Pokemon also clearly suffers from the Smeargle problem. Niantic’s inconsistency with this mechanic is at a huge detriment to the game. I mean this in the nicest way possible Niantic; If you just remove this mechanic, you won’t forget it any more. It’ll be out of your hands. Simply put, this is just too important to the enjoyment of a huge aspect of the game, and Niantic is doing its game and the players a huge disservice by pretending it’s something that they can handle.

I get that the world shut down and Niantic’s initial idea for how they were going to implement the TMing of Frustration may not be realized, but that’s okay. The issue is, even if it was once a month, it would still be a burden. Even if you could TM away Frustration every Friday night, that still means you could catch a Shadow Hoppip during a theoretical future Hoppip Community Day, and you wouldn’t be able to teach it it’s exclusive move until December, assuming there’s a TM event before then (and Shadow Pokemon were briefly a feature for Community Days, another Smeargle Problem).

Really, it’s not that Niantic keeps forgetting about Frustration, it’s that they’ve forgotten. They’re looking forwards towards new content, and don’t care as much for older content. It can’t be expected that the community makes an uproar for every event containing exclusive moves, especially as Niantic makes them a more common mechanic and removes exclusive moves from December’s Community Day. I’d love it if we could make enough noise for this to be fixed before Meteor Mash Metagross goes back into the Niantic vault, but I’ll also be happy if this isn’t something that’s a Smeargle Problem every event.


Pokemon Go has an accessibility problem. In some aspects, that’s part of it’s charm. Hardcore day-one players should have better collections than those with fresh accounts. City play should feel different from rural play. Exclusive Moves are an incredible barrier to entry, and Frustration just compounds this problem while creating more barriers.

I’m not a big fan of exclusive moves, but I understand why they exist. They allow Niantic to manufacture must-play events, increase FOMO, and allow Niantic to double-dip and remonetize content, all extremely easily and effectively. However, these events come at a cost; accessibility. A player that missed a particular Community Day is in a really awkward spot. Again, this encourages existing players to stay hooked, but it’s terrible for growth. Players will slowly quit over time, so these barriers ensure that the player base is only shrinking.

One sad example to me is Metagross, one of the franchise’s most beloved Pokemon. Beldum was released in Feb of 2018, but was generally useless until its Community Day in October, after which it became a useless Pokemon to catch again. The cycle of drought, saturation, repeat, has high highs, but at a huge cost to average experience, and is a nonstarter for players that start after the saturation point. Sure, there’s trading and rare candy and Elite TMs and all of these other ways to put in much more resources (aka money) to pay for something you didn’t receive, but that’s what we’re expecting new players to do? You know what I expect a new player to do when seeing the hoops needed to jump through for a day-long event they missed? Uninstall.

Frustration just adds to this mess with separate event days that players need to pay attention for. A player that started playing earlier last year might be able to add a Shadow Meteor Mash Metagross to their collection this week… but probably not because they missed one of the super small windows when one could be TMed, or they didn’t know they should and now they have to wait what? Two more years? That’s assuming Niantic has even somewhat regular events featuring Meteor Mash. Given the Smeargle Problem, I wouldn’t count on it.

None of this is also to mention that Shadow Pokemon without exclusive moves also have a home in PvP, several of which would be incredibly useful for new players making basic teams. I know you all hate Shadow Victreebel for its simplicity, and I hesitate to bring it up for fear it may derail this cause, but newer players shouldn’t be gated from participating in GBL with Pokemon because Niantic can’t reliably host TM events. We’re currently in the sixth Go Battle League season with half as many TM events. This is horrible for the game.

The Meganium Problem?

Note: This section was written before it was announced that all of these Pokemon would be receiving CD moves during the Johto Countdown Celebration. Still much of it holds true considering these events were not announced and how exclusive moves work with Shadow Pokemon. The end of this section is potentially the most relevant part of this entire article. 

This is an aside, but just as a reminder to Niantic, the Go Battle League launched in 2020. Because of this, Community Day Pokemon from 2018 have never been able to learn their Charge Moves upon evolution with prior knowledge of the Go Battle League. We knew about Leagues in December of 2019, but many players never thought they’d have to care about Ultra League until this year. The Premier Cup wasn’t even a thing until recently! This makes 2018 Pokemon like Venusaur, Charizard, and Typhlosion pretty unlikely for people to have for Ultra League even if they’re been consistently playing.

A few Pokemon like Meganium, Blastoise, and Umbreon are even worse. Go Beyond extending the level cap to 50/51 has given these Pokemon even more potential in the Ultra League, but there’s been no opportunity for players to prepare for this potential. Players with enough foresight probably evolved a Venusaur and Charizard in December of 2019, but no one could have predicted Meganium and Blastoise now Power Up above 2500!

Again, this is the Smeargle Problem, as Niantic doesn’t consider how old content is impacted by new content, and does something like shutting off 2018 CD Evolutions for December 2020, shutting off huge aspects of the game for trainers new and old alike. Ideal Ultra League Meganium and Blastoise have never really been accessible to players, because the content is locked to a time before it even existed.

And finally… Shadow Pokemon that had Community Days in 2018? These have never had the chance to learn Community Day moves without the use of Elite TMs. This list includes Dratini, Bulbasaur,  Mareep, Charmander, (not Larvitar), Squirtle, and Beldum, besides the current event. It’s great that we’re getting Beldum now and probably getting the Kanto starters in a few weeks, but because these events weren’t announced before the last Shadow TM  event, many players weren’t able to prepare for them. (Because the Shadow bonus wasn’t a thing before last December, it’s even worse, as many players Purified and evolved Shadow Pokemon during last year’s recap.)

Are we now to trust that Niantic will run recap events yearly in addition to the December Community Day recap? The Smeargle Problem says that we shouldn’t, and it seems Niantic has already forgotten about Umbreon and Espeon for Johto Countdown Celebration. Call it the Last Resort Problem if you wish, but this is another clear example of the Smeargle Problem. GamePress was only informed of Kanto Starters receiving 2018 CD moves, meaning Dratini, Pikachu, and the remaining Eeveelutions will also be forgotten about (or, at the very least, they were forgotten about when Niantic initially contacted us). 2018 and 2019 Community Day moves should no longer be exclusive. These moves got to be exclusive for 2-3 years at this point. It’s time to remove these old barriers. Newer players shouldn’t be perpetually gated from content with no reliable means to acquire it, and Pokemon caught from Mega Raids shouldn’t require additional purchases to be viable.

Why I've Never Used a Shadow Pokemon

While this is slightly hyperbolic, the sentiment is real. I really don’t use Shadow Pokemon that much, and its specifically because of TMing Frustration being gated to specific windows. Using the above history of Frustration, I’ll outline my history with Shadow Machamp, an excellent Pokemon in Great, Ultra, and Master League, as well as a top Pokemon on the Attackers Tier List.

  • July 10th Shadow Machamp is released.
  • I get some okay-IV Shadow Machops.
  • I TM them during the first July Rocket Takeover.
  • I get some better ones.
  • I TM them during Go Fest.
  • I realize I have a better one from late in the day on Go Fest than I didn’t TM.
  • I hold onto this Machop til December.
  • I TM and evolve it.
  • Machop Community Day announced.

A wise word of advice for Pokemon Go players is to never Power Up something unless you can use it now. The reason for this is you could wind up obtaining better Pokemon before you need to use them, and your resources could’ve been better spent there. However, applying this rule to Shadow Pokemon makes quite a paradox, as you’ll likely have better things that you also cannot use because they are not TMed. You might’ve TMed a Shadow Electabuzz in July, but Electric-types weren’t useful against Legendary Raid bosses until November when Lugia returned. In those 4 months, if you’ve caught a better Shadow Electabuzz, you’re put in a pretty awkward spot when it comes to evaluating whether to spend resources on that Pokemon. And non-shadow Pokemon aren’t immune here. I’ve had a hundo Beldum I hatched in June that has been keeping me from powering up any Metagross in the meantime.

Reexamining Goals

When Niantic looks at why they’ve locked Frustration TMing and Exclusive Moves behind events, they need to ask what they were attempting to accomplish and if that’s working. For my money, it isn’t. These factors contribute to me playing less and using less resources as a whole. Exclusive moves temporarily increase engagement for long term losses, and Frustration-locking Shadows may make me dump some Charge TMs every few months (that I’m just deleting anyways) but I’m also being more frugal with spending dust and candy that Niantic can monetize much easier.

For players that haven’t been playing as long, so much of the game is just locked off for them. As someone with a Platinum Hero medal, I’ve caught a lot of Shadow Pokemon. 4 a day from balloons alone means I’ve got a minimum of 360 Pokemon that I catch in the three months between every takeover that are totally useless and not worth caring about outside of sporadically announced events/the community reminding Niantic. Let’s let this be the last reminder. It’s time to finally let us use Shadow Pokemon in Pokemon Go.

I used to be vocal about wanting to use these sweet looking Shadow Pokemon that were previously just worse than Purified versions. Almost a year later, I’m left feeling like Niantic swung and missed as I still don’t use the incredibly sweet and now incredibly powerful Shadow Pokemon, because the reasons to not interact with the mechanic still outweigh the reasons to interact with it. Let me know down below; how many Shadow Pokemon do you have Powered Up for each League and Raiding? I think many players want to use Shadow Pokemon, but feel incredibly stifled by Frustration.

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