Mega Evolution in Pokemon Go was a total flop. There’s no need to sugarcoat it. The community reception was so overwhelmingly negative that Niantic immediately announced they were listening to feedback on all social platforms and in game, an unprecedented move. Niantic has since taken steps to improve Mega Evolutions but I believe that these fixes fail to address the core issues of this half-hearted implementation.
Mega Pokemon feel like "renting" in a game/franchise centered around collecting.
Mega Raids are a new skin on a 3-year-old system, which is then even further dulled down.
This implementation is wholly unexciting, despite Mega Pokemon being a beloved part of the Pokemon franchise.
Exclusive "Elite" Moves are a continual drain on the game.
This release follows other shady business practices and players are fed up.
Mega Raids fail to meet the goals of endgame content, and are seemingly just a cash-grab.
Niantic's recent changes do nothing to meet these because they are listening to feedback that doesn't answer to these core issues. In short, it's not just that "The time limit to Mega Evolution does not feel worth the resources used to collect the Mega Energy required".
A Collection Game
Pokemon Go, and Pokemon at large, is a game centered on collection; gotta’ catch em all. The concept of temporary Mega Evolutions presents a huge hurdle to catching them all. In the main series and many of its franchised titles, some core elements remain; Megas are temporary evolutions that a trainer can only have one of at a given time. However, where most titles differ is allowing trainers to collect items to Mega Pokemon.
Megas in Pokemon Go feel like renting. Even with the recent changes, Mega Energy is a depleting resource. This is the first problem that needs to be addressed and Niantic’s biggest hurdle with their current implementation. If Mega Venusaur Raids disappeared today, even whales sitting on 999 Mega Venusaur Energy would only be able to Mega Evolve 24 times, or 4 days of continuous usage. After all of that, the only thing the player has to show for it is a Pokedex entry.
The opportunity cost of spending a Raid Pass on something that isn’t collectable means that every pass spent towards Mega Energy feels like if you were to complete a Heatran Raid, receive inexplicably worse Raid rewards, and then never access the Bonus Challenge to catch the Pokemon! You're left with nothing to show for your efforts. Some of this problem is reflective of the uselessness of a Charizard in a given player’s collection as discussed below. If Mega Raids released with one of the 6-or-so big draw Mega Evolutions, we might not have noticed. It’s important to realize that players would likely be doing Mewtwo/Lucario/Garchomp Raids regardless, so those are more of outliers. For 40 of the species of Mega Evolutions, Niantic has created a terrible system.
There doesn’t seem to be much way around this one. Niantic needs to make their players feel like they are able to earn Mega Pokemon. As a first step, let’s get rid of the Mega Energy limit. I’m unlikely to hit it, but it’s existence is completely demoralizing. The main reason to currently spend Mega Energy is hardcore players that have already hit the limit. Really though, there needs to be an Energy cost that removes the need for Energy on subsequent Mega Evolutions. Until this happens, there will always be players who refuse to use the system.
I’m not exactly sure why everyone thinks the timer is an okay idea yet says “Mega Evolving subsequent times should be free.” These seem to be at odds with each other. Pokemon Go is a game of recourse management, and since I’m rarely going to use a Mega Pokemon for 4 hours, I’m rarely, if ever, going to Mega Evolve, which means I’ll never have a use for Mega Energy. The timer just makes the feature feel worse than it already is.
In 2017, Niantic added Raiding. This was a huge step up in complexity and an exciting way to obtain Pokemon. In 2018, Niantic added research. This was again a step up in complexity and an exciting way to obtain Pokemon. In 2019, Niantic added Rocket Battles for yet another step up in complexity and an exciting way to obtain Pokemon.
Not only are Mega Raids two steps backwards, encouraging players to raid in large groups for the speed bonus makes them feel even more basic. You may notice the word “feel” is written a lot in this writeup. Megas failed because they feel bad, and so it’s those feelings that Niantic has to address. People love Pokemon, and people love Mega Pokemon. While that earns a lot of good will, it also illuminates how badly Niantic failed with this release. Everyone was beyond eager to love Mega Pokemon in Pokemon Go.
Mega Evolution needs to go back to the drawing board. I appreciate Niantic wanting players to dump multiple Raid Passes to earn each of the 46 Mega evolutions (meaning, yes, they were expecting us all to do around 300 raids just to unlock 46 dex entries... That’s one way to create a year’s worth of content) but we need something new and exciting. To be clear, earning energy through tasks, by walking your buddy Pokemon, or through “Rare Candy” Mega Energy is NOT the solution. Mega Evolution is a new feature deserving of its own mechanic, ideally something with a step up in complexity that doesn’t feel tedious in a month.
I can come up with a number of entertaining mini-games to facilitate this, and there’s still so much untapped potential in AR. I’m aware many AR features are seldom used and forgotten about, but Niantic can deliver big here too. What is the biggest trick in their back pocket? Now’s the time to pull it out!
In an unreleased, collaborative article, I touched on some points on Mega Evolution. Honestly, the hope expressed in those paragraphs makes it now read incredibly sad.
“Mostly, I’m excited to see what Niantic comes up with, as I’m sure it’ll be something brand new.”
I think there’s a number of directions Niantic can go with this, and Raids are a clear money maker for them, but Megas need to feel accessible. There’s that word again! Accessibility and rarity are a tough pair to balance, and hopefully this isn’t done by a tedious gamemode rife with submenus designed to make players give up and go Raid, but I suppose even that is better than a transparent cash grab and laughably rare research tasks.
Solution pt 2 (Improving Raids)
Make the Energy generation tied to raids feel more controllable. A MCX Raid is inferior to raid over a MCY because MCY has a double Rock weakness. This makes MCY significantly easier to defeat in less time, resulting in better rewards. Pokemon like Blastoise will be tankier and take longer to take down, despite being less desirable.
Rewards somehow tied to individual performance allow the gameplay to be in-game rather than an exercise in organizing your friends in a game with no chat features. Stop tying individual performance to a percentage of total damage or you’re actively discouraging players from inviting others to Raid (time-bonus aside).
Revamping the Raid layout to make dodging and attacking more dynamic kills a doubly super effective Charizard with one Stone Edge. The monotonous tapping in Raid Battles is broken up only by the occasional double-moved raiding Pokemon.
If we’re tied to Raiding as a proven way of monetization, revamp the Bonus Challenge (catch sequence). For 40/46 Mega Evolutions, the Bonus Challenge is extremely unexciting other than the small prospect of a shiny Pokemon that was featured in a Community Day 2 years ago. At the very least this should be a different minigame tied to some level of skill or individual performance.
Well, well, well. It seems that Niantic’s heavy reliance on “FOMO” or Fear of Missing Out is starting to catch up with them. This isn’t just about Mega Pokemon, but there is something bittersweet about just how badly Mega Pokemon failed. I should also point out now though that this month’s rereleases of Cresselia, Articuno, and Zapdos also likely won’t have their Elite moves either (though Niantic, if you decide to add them, that’ll really show me!). Mega Pokemon caught in Raids don’t have their exclusive Community Day moves. This requires you to spend $13 Elite TMs on the Pokemon you’re catching during any Mega Raids.
Laughably, when Charizard, Blastoise, and Venusaur were recently available as Clone Pokemon, they did come with their exclusive moves BUT you can’t Mega Evolve Clone Pokemon!! (called that back in Feb btw) This is just another thing making Mega Pokemon unexciting.
Obviously, just give Mega Pokemon their exclusive moves when you Mega Raid them THAT WAS SARCASM. EXCLUSIVE MOVES SUCK. THE SOLUTION IS TO BEGIN REMOVING ELITE MOVES FROM POKEMON AND REVAMPING THE ELITE MOVE SYSTEM.
Here’s the full solution; Pokemon with Elite Moves can TM them off and on as they see fit. For some reason Tyranitar, the only Pokemon with a Fast Move from Community Day, is oddly punished in this regard. Let players TM Smack Down to Bite and back. Any Pokemon with an Elite Move is marked as Elite. Convert existing Elite TMs in inventories into an Elite Brace or something that makes a Pokemon Elite. Begin to de-legacy Elite moves and make them learnable by freshly evolved/caught Pokemon (with a system that provides automatic compensation for players that recently spent ETMs on now non-Elite moves).
This seems to be a very long-winded answer to something that is seemingly fixed by just giving Mega-caught Pokemon their Community Day moves, but it isn’t. ETMs are a band aid solution to a problem Niantic created and profits off of. I have been against them since they were merely a suggestion on random TSR posts. Check my post history if you must, they’ve always been a bad solution.
This should be apparent, as September is the month of featuring Pokemon without their Elite Moves, and to add to the lunacy, Charizard will be receiving an Elite Fast Move during October Community Day. This means two of the franchise’s most beloved Pokemon will be behind the most absurd paywalls you could dream up. A fully unlocked Charizard will cost you at least 5 Raids to unlock both Mega X and Y, an Elite Charge TM for Blast Burn, and an Elite Charge TM every time you want to switch Dragon Breath to Fire Spin for MCY and then Fire Spin back to Dragon Breath for MCX, AND another Raid Pass each time you want to rent a Mega Evolution. Mewtwo, another Pokemon with two Mega Evolutions, also has 3 Elite Moves.This creates an extremely-bad-feeling situation with an expensive solution to two of the franchise's leading mascots.
To clarify, most players will opt to just max additional Mewtwo and Charizard so that one can keep Dragon Breath and one can keep Fire Spin (and oh yea Charizard also has another Elite Fast Move in Wing attack). What part of this scenario is supposed to be fun? While above I described this scenario as bittersweet, it is the players that suffer from Niantic’s greed here again. Please, Niantic, make us feel anything but this.
The Straw That Broke
While previous solutions already address this issue, it’s just important to note that Mega Raids currently contribute to FOMO, as no one knows the future of Mega content. Many of the people currently Raiding Mega Pokemon are extremely dedicated (addicted to the game). Some of these players are having fun regardless, but you are also intentionally and maliciously capitalizing on many user’s beliefs that this content is limited and thus they need to stock up in some capacity.
Many players currently participating in Mega Raids are participating with the implication that Niantic is going to improve the feature in the future. The Mega system is almost universally hated, yet many players participate in Mega Raids either because they don’t think the system can change or because they believe the system will change. “Might as well stock up on Mega Energy now so that if Niantic decides to make the system palatable, I’m ready.” That’s not a horrible place to be, but Niantic should be well aware that the current system is not fun.
Even worse is players stocking up in case Megas are allowed in Master League Go Battle League Play, assuming they would cost Energy and not award it. The implementation of Megas in Pokemon Go come in a year where Niantic is already on track to overtake sales from any year previous with aggressive monetization pushes. This, combined with extremely predatory business practices has left players feeling fed up. After surges of complaints from Go Fest and Dragon Week fell on deaf ears, maybe the dam was just ready to burst- but Niantic's handling of Megas was also taken very personally from the player base at large. It feels like Niantic doesn't care.
More honest business practices. Start discussing planned content and drop rates for all existing content.
This has nothing to do with this issue to be honest but it’s time to start treating this issue more seriously. Disclose your rates, Niantic. Automatically compensate players for server issues. If Niantic is a company concerned with social impact, they should be aiming to set industry standards and push things forward. They currently do not meet them.
The other solution here is for players; Stop doing Mega Raids.
Mega$ are Poor Endgame Content
Recognizing that Megas are endgame content is an important step in accepting them. Megas can’t be immediately accessible and also feel like a rewarding unlock. “Rare Candy” Mega Energy is undoubtedly coming (remember that Raids did not release with Rare Candy/Legendaries and Rocket Grunts did not release with Leaders/Giovanni) but it won’t be plentiful and will not solve the issues players want it to solve. Universal Mega Energy (removal of species-specific Energy) will mean that players don’t have to Raid Mega Latias as they’ll already have enough Energy. At the same time, it might also mean players will raid more Mega Camerupt during an otherwise boring content cycle. On the other hand, it will make Mega Evolving Mewtwo incredibly trivial, while ensuring no one ever wastes Energy on Mega Lopunny.
Hot Take: Charizard X and Charizard Y using the same energy is actually kinda lame.
The Mega system is actually pretty rewarding. Megas are insanely powerful but the Raiding system provides little benefit for using powerful Pokemon as opposed to just showing up in large numbers. The announced use of Mega Pokemon as a pseudo “Star Piece” but for Candy is super cool (though I’m not sure about the type-specific nature, as that strangely rewards players for bringing Mega Swampert to a Kyogre Raid; a weird bonus for Ghost and Dragon-type Raids, I suppose). Niantic will likely throw more bonuses toward Mega Evolving in the future, as even though the benefits are extremely good, the core gameplay loop boils down to “Mega Raid to get Mega Evolve to get Mega Raid etc.” While this seems pretty obvious to anyone looking at Megas, it’s also the core loop we’ve been playing at for the past two years.
Megas Make Pokemon Go a Worse Game
I pointed out earlier that doing Mega Raids also feels bad because we’re giving up that opportunity to Raid a Legendary with that Raid Pass. In many games, this would be an endgame loop where once Legendary Raids become boring to the players that have them from previous rotations, they use their resources on the harder and more prestigious Mega Raids (think content cycles in Pokemon Shuffle).
However, in Pokemon Go, this mostly flopped as Mega Raids are easier (simpler), less desirable (previous CD Pokemon), and just overall less fun. People, especially Pokemon fans, can appreciate a gindy mechanic, but the juice must be worth the squeeze. Niantic attempted to make this slightly more palatable by running it alongside less desirable Legendary Pokemon. Rather than create gameplay loops to mitigate FOMO or make Megas more exciting, they’ve just left us with a rather boring month.
Niantic knows we want Dialga Raids, and we may now be even more unlikely to get them, and Niantic attempts to draw our attention toward Mega content. In this way, Megas are not only boring, they’re making other, enjoyable aspects of the game even more frustrating.
What actually happened is Niantic shot too high. Instead of creating a feature that appeals to endgame players, they created something that appeals to only the upper echelon of hardcore grinders, ie whales (and they’re not really having it either). There’s undoubtedly a few people in each community that go super hard regardless of the event, and those players probably already have the requisite candy for all of the currently released Mega Pokemon. Megas should not be an exclusive thing for these players! On the pendulum of endgame vs accessibility this swings too far- and even these players are likely just sitting on Mega Energy with little desire to spend it.
In an attempt to create endgame content, Niantic created a system that blatantly rewards only players that spend, rather than providing something meaningful and challenging.
That’s why Niantic needs to shake this up, and needs to make us feel excited about Mega Pokemon in a different way. Adjustments will placate us.
Wow us. I’m excited to see what you come up with.