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Op-Ed: How Pokémon Go is the most successful failure of 2016

September 27 2016, 12:58 PM EDT By Ryan Smythe

Pokémon Go is so insanely successful that Nintendo, a company that in no way makes the game, saw its stock price more than double within 10 days of the game releasing
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If algebra taught me anything, it's that this is an attractive graph to investors.

At least 100 million people downloaded this game as of the beginning of August, and it generates approximately $10 million in revenue every day. We hear about it on the nightly news, we hear about it at our kitchen table and we hear about it as we’re heading into court. Unless your parents grew up with a Super Nintendo, this game is probably their first real introduction to the world of Pokémon, and no one can shut up about it. The problem is, Pokémon Go is a terrible game.

It started out as an amazing combination of Pokémon, geocaching and augmented reality. We could literally see a Pikachu sitting on our coworker’s head as our phone’s battery rapidly faded out of existence. Along the way, portable phone charger sales saw a spike not too dissimilar to the one Nintendo’s stock saw. Then Niantic, the company that actually created the game, removed the single most important gameplay feature: tracking. Once that version hit the app store, it became impossible to tell where that rare Pokémon has hiding. For all we knew, the Pinsir could either be in a tree four blocks east, or it could be sitting in the middle of traffic two blocks south. The Pokémon would disappear within 15 minutes of it spawning, leaving players no choice but to frantically run around our neighborhoods, cursing the game every time another Rhydon disappeared before we ever got the chance to see it pop up on the map.

With a recent update, Niantic hoped to placate the masses by allowing us to keep a Poké-companion with us at all times, similar to what Pokémon Yellow, HeartGold and SoulSilver allowed the player to do. The first difference is that the Pokémon Go companions give us a candy every few kilometers walked. The second difference is that those three traditional Pokémon games did it better.

My Squirtle is awesome, but I can’t see him running with me. And let’s face it, that’s part of the reason why Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are the best versions.

If Pokémon Go was a proper multiplayer game, we would be able to hold our phones up to other active players and see a Charmander trailing after them. At the very least, we would be able to see some version of them on our maps, which would require yet another update that doesn’t involve locating Pokémon. Unfortunately, players can only interact with each other at a gym, and even then we’re just battling Pokémon other trainers left behind.

The companion update simply doesn’t offer enough to overcome the lack of a tracking system in the game. It’s been missing since the end of July, and it’s beginning to look like Nintendo will release their newest addition to the Pokémon series before that problem is fixed.

Don’t fall prey to the allure of the Pokémon Go Plus, a $35 watch-like thing that allows you to catch Pokémon without needing to pull out your phone; instead, wait a few months to buy a complete game starring more than 800 types of Pokémon on Nintendo 3DS. You still need to wander around aimlessly to find the Pokémon you want in Sun and Moon, but at least you can still meet up and battle with your friends and foes.

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