How Pokemon Go Can Make Mega Evolution More Player Friendly

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a new Pokemon Go event is announced, and a new Mega Evolution debuts with it. As a longtime player, you’re excited to add a new Pokemon to your collection. Especially when it’s something like Mega Gyarados, the souped-up form of a very popular classic Pokemon. You go out (mask on, of course) and see several Mega Gyarados raids awaiting your challenge. You click on one… but there’s no one in the lobby. You try another, same thing. It’s not long before the truth sets in: you can’t solo these raids, so no Mega Gyarados for you.

It’s a story I repeat every time a new Mega Evolution is added, and I live in a densely-populated city. I have no trouble finding Mega Raids, it’s just that no one is interested in doing them. Why is that, exactly? The main sticking point is the way developer Niantic chose to implement Megas.

The “Pay-To-Win” Problem

Mega Evolution in Pokemon Go requires a currency called Mega Energy, which at first could only be collected from Mega Raids. Mega Raids are too strong for one trainer alone, so you depend on inviting friends or hoping strangers arrive when you do. The issue there is that players quickly abandoned Mega Raids out of protest. Since Mega Raids require a Raid Pass, you must either limit yourself to one a day or spend money on more passes. Many were quick to call this dynamic pay-to-win as it allows people who buy raid passes to acquire energy faster. It’s also worth noting that Mega Evolution is temporary, so you have to keep raiding if you want to keep using Megas.

In Niantic’s defense, it acted quickly to address these concerns. Within days, the cost of Mega Evolution was dropped and the potential amount earned from a single raid was increased. Later updates also introduced alternate methods of acquiring Mega Energy. Certain quests (both paid and unpaid) can pay out small amounts of Mega Energy. You can also “occasionally earn Mega Energy” by walking with a buddy Pokemon species that has Mega Evolved before. These are great steps, but it still stands that Mega Raids are the best way to earn Mega Energy.

All of this combined makes Mega Evolution less satisfying than it should be. You can either spend time grinding it out with quests or walking, pay for it, or get a dedicated raid group together. The reward for that hard work (or hard spending) is a temporary power-up that you’ll need to earn again in a few hours. A power-up that isn’t even usable in PvP (a decision probably made to discourage further pay-to-win accusations, bit still feels disappointing).

One Item Could Help

It would be easy as a player to say something like “Make Mega Evolution permanent!” and feel justified. The large upfront cost wouldn’t seem so bad if the reward wasn’t temporary and came with repeat costs. Also, in the main Pokemon games, you can Mega Evolve at will. Unfortunately, the ugly truth is that’s not how mobile games work. They need you to want to play everyday. The pattern of coming back to raid every time a new Mega is introduced (and hopefully drop cash for more raid passes) is part of that plan. There is a way to keep engagement numbers while making Mega Evolution more accessible, though. Niantic should introduce Rare Mega Energy.

In Pokemon Go, one Rare Candy can become a Candy for any Pokemon of your choice. It’s a great way to evolve rare Pokemon like Noibat, Pokemon that can’t be caught in bulk to farm Candy. A Rare Mega Energy could work in the same manner. Right now, Mega Energy is specific to individual Pokemon species. If you want Mega Gyarados, you need to do Mega Gyarados raids. With a universal Rare Mega Energy, Trainers could feed Gyarados enough power to Mega Evolve without searching for that elusive raid group.

Rare Mega Energy also fulfills the requirement of keeping players coming back for more. Rare Candy can help you evolve any Pokemon you want, but you need to find it first. This involves you doing raids, participating in PvP, or completing quests–activities that feed into frequent, if not daily, play. Rare Mega Energy could similarly be tied to these activities. Players would be happier to Mega Evolve more often, and Niantic would keep those numbers up.

Or… Just Make Mega Evolution Permanent

Going back to what many players have been saying, Mega Evolution could just be a toggle-able ability. Maybe  you could activate once you complete a quest or achieve a certain buddy level. Too much management spoils a free-to-play game, and Pokemon Go is approaching that. Juggling PokeCoins, Potions, Poke Balls, Rocket Radars, evolution items, Rare Candies, and everything else that takes up bag space is a lot. Then there’s all the events, changing spawns, limited time quests, Shadow Pokemon, and other things to keep track of. Adding Mega Raids that come and go is another bit of FOMO we don’t really need. Players are fine with working to achieve Mega Evolution, but let them keep it once they have it.

Mega Evolution is one of the coolest “gimmicks” in Pokemon history. Its introduction into Pokemon Go, however, hasn’t been the blockbuster players were hoping for. It’s not the worst thing in the world–Niantic is onto something with the idea of new Megas coming out periodically to headline events. It just needs to give us another method to acquire Mega Energy, or let us unlock the ability to Mega Evolve at will. Until that day, I’ll keep staring at the blank entries in my Mega Dex.

…Someday, Mega Ampharos. Someday.

Next: Sega, I Am Begging You, Please Bring Back Trauma Center

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Sergio is the Lead News Editor for TheGamer. But usually he asks people to call him “Serg” because he wants to sound cool like the guy from System of a Down. He began as a convention reporter for FLiP Magazine and Albany Radio’s The Shaw Report to get free badges to Comic-Con. Eventually he realized he liked talking to game developers and discovering weird new indie games. Now he brings that love of weird games to TheGamer, where he tries to talk about them in clickable ways so you grow to love them too. When he’s not stressing over how to do that, he’s a DM, Cleric of Bahamut, cosplay boyfriend, and occasional actor.

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