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Op-Ed: Why the ‘Pokémon Go’ update was doomed from the start

February 21 2017, 10:50 AM EST By Ryan Smythe


Releasing the newest major update to Pokémon Go in the middle of February is an awful, no good, very bad idea.

The game is out in dozens of countries, and a great number of them experience some sort of seasonal change; the ones that don’t, or even the ones with regions that don’t, are exempt from being lumped into this. For example, the average daily temperature in Los Angeles this time of year is about 64 degrees. Other than the aggressive amount of rain the area recently received, that’s lovely weather to take a stroll and catch a brand new Sneasel in. On the other side of the globe, New Delhi, India’s, average temperature this time of year is about 74 degrees. Places like this don’t need to worry about city-closing snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures getting in the way of their quest to be the very best like no one ever was.

Niantic, the San Francisco-based company that created this mobile app, apparently forgot that other parts of the world experience proper winters. While their city basks in February temperatures that usually hover around 60 degrees, residents of cities such as Madison, Wisconsin, need to consider whether or not a Chikorita is worth braving 31 degrees.


This is what Boston looked like on Feb. 9, 2017. [Photo credit Jesse Costa/WBUR]

Pokémon Go was a monstrous success partially because of the international nostalgia-stroking appeal of Pokémon and partially because they released it in the United States on July 6, a time of year that has decent weather no matter where you live in this country. Taking your phone along for an afternoon stroll to capture a nearby gym was easy—our parents always tell us to get out more, and this way we got to do it while playing a moderately passable excuse for a video game.

This recent addition of Generation Two Pokémon—first introduced in 1999 when Pokémon Silver and Gold hit shelves—is a great idea to keep consumer interest focused on what was once arguably the most popular mobile app in the United States. Niantic still hasn’t released information on where to catch a legendary Pokémon, but players can add nearly 100 more creatures to their phones by logging back in and aimlessly wandering around fields. They’ve even added two new names for Eevee to give easy access to its dark and psychic-type Eeveelutions.

Unfortunately, their timing is terrible. There’s no way the number of people playing this game will reach the same levels it achieved last summer because they chose to release what can effectively be called a sequel in the middle of winter. Cities such as Boston, Madison and New York have weeks of snow on the horizon, closely followed by cold and slushy streets for weeks after that. The global audience living in warmer climates might give their numbers a nice bump for now, but how much more effective could this update have been if it dropped exactly one year after the initial release, complete with the ability to battle and a proper tracking system?

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