Even with trading Pokémon Go is still a mess

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When Pokémon GO was first released in 2016, it promised to make us the best that no one ever was. It kicked off with a lot of expectations. Pokémon fans such as myself were excitedly awaiting what new wonders we would expect with Pokémon Go. It wasn’t unusual to see groups of people at places such as Viharamaha Devi Park and Diyatha Uyana looking at their phones and running all over the place on random journeys all across the country. In truth, we were all hyped to be the next Pokémon master.

Sadly, the hype train that was Pokémon GO came to a screeching halt. From server and network lags, to illegal GPS hacks (aka Spoofing) to the game actually being geo banned for almost a year, the excitement in playing Pokémon GO started at an all-time high and then went straight off a cliff.

Trading Pokémon GO
The Pokemon trainers that fought Mewtwo

The developers of the game, Niantic introduced a number of incentives to bring back players to the game. These took the form of Boss Raids, special events such as Community days and Ex Raids where you could battle and capture the legendary Pokémon Mewtwo.

We shouted, no one listened

The game still has a cult following. But I feel Niantic has largely ignored the real needs of the community. This is especially true with trading. This is something we’ve been asking for since Day 01. Similarly, despite the events that Niantic throw, there’s no real incentive to people to play the game. There was one feature that was missing since day one. A feature that was in all the original games since the days of Pokémon Blue, Red and Yellow. This was the ability to trade Pokémon.

The Missing link in Pokémon GO

Trading Pokémon in older games was perhaps an important aspect of the game. This is because certain Pokémon could evolve only via trading. So if you were looking to complete your Pokédex, you would have to link your console with another player in order to fill out the missing entries.

With Pokémon GO, there was no inclination that trading would ever come into the game and many people (myself included) were actually pessimistic that it would ever make an appearance.

Two years later, Niantic did it, sort of

Initially announced earlier this week, Niantic officially announced that trading would be available in Pokémon GO. With trading also came a new Friends List feature. Here, you could add friends via a Trainer Code. Once added, you could see details of your friends such as their XP and level, their buddy Pokémon, battles won, distance walked and total Pokémon caught.

Trading Pokémon GO
What we thought trading in Pokémon GO would look like (Image Credits: Ars Technica)

Added to this list was also the ability to send and receive gifts. Obtainable by spinning a Pokéstop, these gifts contain anything from Pokéballs to Revives, to perhaps even rare candy and TMs. In addition, if you receive a gift from a friend, you will receive a special 7KM egg as well. As the name suggests, you will have to walk 7KM with that egg incubated in order to hatch it. Speaking of hatching, when hatched, these eggs would reveal an Alolan Pokémon from the Kanto region.

Trading in Pokémon GO is a tradeoff, literally

Unlike the original games, trading in Pokémon GO comes at a cost. That cost is stardust. Stardust is what you use to power up your Pokémon for Raid battles. But here, it would be used for trades. So yes, in order to trade Pokémon, you will have to sacrifice some stardust.

Trading Pokémon GO
A basic trade in Pokémon GO will cost 100 Stardust (Image Credits: MacRumors)

A normal trade will cost around 100 Stardust, whereas if it’s a Pokémon that is not already in your Pokédex, that amount is bumped up to 20,000 stardust. Legendary Pokémon and shiny Pokémon too are eligible for trading. You just need a whopping one million stardust for it if they too are not in your Pokédex. Else, they would cost a total of 20,000 stardust as well.

Just to put things into perspective, capturing a basic Pokémon would give you 100 stardust. So naturally, amassing 20,000 stardust is not exactly a walk in the park, especially if you’re in a rural area. Because Pokémon spawns are less common, these players are unable to gather stardust to power up their own Pokémon, let alone use any for trades. In addition, when trading a Pokémon in Pokémon GO, the stats or IV of the Pokémon can also change. So once traded, there is a high possibility that your Pokémon’s IV would drop, making it less powerful in battle.

Trading Pokémon GO
Trading Legendary Pokémon you don’t have will cost you quite a bit (Image Credits Tech Advisor)

Further, trading Pokémon that are not already registered to your Pokédex, legendary Pokémon and shiny Pokémon can only be traded once per day. This is so that spoofers and bot accounts won’t be able to mass transfer perfect IV legendary Pokémon to their account. Doing so would have them at a significant advantage over actual players if Niantic introduced PvP battling.

If you want to build a game, don’t be like Pokémon GO

This is a very important note for developers and entrepreneurs. Always pay attention and listen to your customers. For example, Pokémon GO players have been relentless in asking for trading to be implemented. It took Niantic two years, and they did it. But then again, it wasn’t exactly what we wanted.

Trading Pokémon GO
Leveling up your friendship is a bit difficult when you have no friends nearby

While trading seems like the next best thing since sliced bread for Pokémon GO, I for one am a bit disappointed in the way that Niantic have chosen to carry it out. For example, with regard to the Friends List, in order to receive bonus items and level up your friendships, you have to either send gifts to friends or do raid battles with them. Both of these scenarios are not helpful if you are a player in a rural area where let alone a gym, but a Pokéstop is not a common sight.

At the same time even if you are in an urban area, you’re still stuck if there are no nearby players who you can team up with to take on Raid bosses. For example, my best friend, despite living in Kandy, finds it difficult to team up for raids as she’s situated away from the Kandy town.

It’s not a solution to a problem, rather it’s a stopgap

Because of the bonuses you get with high levels of friendship, even legit players may be tempted to alter their GPS location in order to send/receive gifts or even take part in raids. So one approach Niantic could do is to increase the number of pokestops, especially in rural areas, to make it more accessible for these players.

All in all, though, trading is indeed a feature that we’ve been waiting for, for quite a long time. The question on my mind is, is it enough to get players both new and old to play the game again. If you were told that trading in Pokémon GO was implemented, but it would cost you stardust, would you still play the game?

I, for one, do not see myself trading in Pokémon GO, simply because I value my stardust count over anything else, and also because most Pokémon can be obtained either by raiding, hatching eggs or by walking your buddy to evolve them. Now if there was a way to battle other players, that would definitely be an incentive for both existing and new players to keep playing.

What do you think of the trading system in Pokémon GO? Love it? Hate it? Leave a comment below.

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