Yesterday, Niantic announced that we're getting a second Community Day in Pokemon Go this January, with Bulbasaur getting a day as well as Spheal. I wrote a little while ago that with the PoGo community shrinking and crystallising into hardcore fans care about the minutae of the meta, the Community Day as an idea has lost all meaning. It's no longer parks full of wandering players getting infectiously excited about a Pokemon that happens to be a slightly different colour, it's cars full of people who treat Pokemon Go as a second job meticulously analysing the stats of every 'mon they catch, instantly chumming them into candies if they fall below 0/14/14. If you don't know what those numbers mean, Community Days are no longer for you.
Bulbasaur Community Day is an attempt to change that. Bulbasaur has been in the game since day one five years ago, has had numerous events, been featured in raids or eggs consistently, and this will be its fourth Community Day. When I wrote that wild Pokemon don't matter anymore, it was through ignoring a wild Venusaur – so rare that I've only seen three fully evolved starters in the wild in all my time playing – that I realised the game had changed. Even the hardest of hardcore players won't bother with Bulbasaur.
Related: I Wish We Had More Pokemon Games Like Let's GoThis seems to be the point. Personally, I think Spheal is a decent Community Day pick – I play Community Days mostly for the shinies, even if shiny Pokemon are a bit too common these days, and I still need a shiny Spheal, so I'm all for it. Even better, it's not a sickly green shiny or a barely noticeable change in tone, but a shimmering purple. Who doesn't want a fat purple seal ball, eh? Exactly. It's not the best pick – shiny Spheal are in the wild already, so it's not entirely new, and the entire Spheal line is mostly useless, but I play the game to collect things and I need this to complete my collection. I can't really argue with it.
Bulbasaur is meant to be for players who have missed out on it. I get that. But who precisely are those players? It's had three days already, and it's pretty common in Rocket battles. I want Pokemon Go to continue to thrive, and not just in a monetary 'whales will pay us £1,000 a month so who cares about casuals' sense. I'm glad we're seeing a day clearly designed not for the game's biggest spenders, but for the complete newcomers. This just feels overpitched. It's way too beginner. It's so beginner that I doubt even ten percent of the playerbase is interested in a Community Day like this. Worse, it just feels lazy. Missed the last three Bulbasaur days, somehow? Here's a fourth. No, no one else will be playing. Sorry.
Just redoing an old Community Day cannot capture the sense of community when there is no community there. I play Pokemon Go as a solitary player – that's why I hate the game trying to make me have friends. But playing during the early Community Days, with large groups of people all brought together by the same, silly thing, is probably my favourite memory of Pokemon Go. You can't ever give late adopters the sense of what it felt like to be an early adopter, especially for a phenomenon like Pokemon Go. But if Niantic is going to try, it needs to do a lot better.
Maybe some casual player out there somehow doesn't have a shiny Bulbasaur yet, and maybe this day will give it to them. I suppose if it does, it has done its job – but if Niantic wants to encourage a new wave of players and ensure there's a base beyond the whales, there needs to be more effort being put into these events. A storyline, something that feels like an adventure, something to capture a feeling close to the collective spirit of the early days without just giving us a task that says 'make a friend'. Collective goals have created a little bit of this sense, especially when they've been discussed online, but just giving new players a shiny Bulbasaur and expecting it to have the same impact as those early Community Days is naive at best and lazy at worst. Season of Heritage was meant to fix PoGo’s mistakes, not make them worse.
I don't know why I hope for better from Pokemon Go. It feels like all the best experiences I've had with the game come from my own making, from the early community spirit, from finding self-made ways to make the game more fun. Maybe I'm just a fool for all things Pokemon. Pass me another Bulbasaur, Niantic. Let's get that shundo.
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