Pokemon GO players’ve had plenty of reason for skepticism in the preceding week. The new patch removing tracking, Niantic’s wincing reluctance to explain what’s going on, the press and Governor Cuomo going on about sexual predators, and then there’s their fellow players! No, nobody could possibly believe that some random schmoe on Ohio, fielding the same demands to Niantic support as the rest of us, could’ve possibly been given Articuno as compensation for their troubles. Clearly they were just abusing the recent mimicry bug that’d occasional replace a Caterpie with some rarer Pokemon’s appearance. Totally nothing but shenanigans—
“We recently noticed that a few Legendary Pokemon got into a few accounts when they shouldn’t have, To preserve the game’s integrity and as a measure of fairness, we have rectified the situation and revoked the legendary Pokemon from the Trainers’ accounts.”
It wasn’t a hoax. What the ever-loving…
Okay, it’s not as bad as it looks. According to Niantic PR, in a statement to Geek.com, they didn’t come by it through legitimate means. Certainly not through Niantic support. According to them, it must have been a hack or a spoof – just one of many that continues to plague Pokemon GO (Japan is REALLY grumpy about Chinese GPS spoofers taking over their gyms).
But while it certainly warms the cockles of an old Gen 1 player’s heart to have people hyped up about unfounded rumors (Trucks, Bill’s Backyard, Pikablu… ah, memories), the fact that it’s believable that Niantic’d release something as cockamamie as, say, release the “World’s First Legendary” unannounced on a convention floor is pretty bad news for the prestige and trust the community has with the already embattled company.
And the thing is: they hardly have any reason to be distrusted so, at least in this regard (don’t talk to me about trackers; I’m still mad about trackers). Niantic AND The Pokemon Company has plenty of experience with these sort of events.
Lessons from Ingress
In case a reminder’s necessary: Pokemon GO isn’t Niantic’s only game. Before Nintendo and The Pokemon Company reached out to Google to turn an April Fool’s gag into something more, there was Ingress – one of the bigger nascent attempts at making Augmented Reality Gaming something coherent.
Ingress has world-wide events all the damn time.
In fact, they’re truly world-wide. Actors and actresses and company reps seem to always be on tour from one Anomaly event to another, rallying supporters of each faction into collective bids for dominance. And sometimes not against each other, as the virtual monuments erected to commemorate or recognize real-world events demonstrate. The most recent one, stretching from May to July, went from Brooklyn to Rotterdam, to even Tainan, Taiwan (I can’t believe I missed it). Before then was a February to April event including Seattle and Hong Kong. Before then, Okinawa and Milan were visited in the October to December stretch.
Basically, when it comes to major events, Niantic’s not shy with the plane tickets. And given that the distribution of event Pokemon in the main series was also of a similar nature – an ongoing tour from city to city as kids got to download their favorite legendaries from hotspots, if not directly off wifi regardless of their location – it’s a model that’s fully familiar to the Pokemon community as a whole.
There’s no way to tell how Niantic actually plans to do distribution yet, but it’s pretty clear it isn’t in the form of customer service compensations. But if I were to guess, it’d serve to keep a few vacation days stowed away in the coming year.