Pokemon GO 2016 in Review

As 2016 draws to a close, let's look back at a year of highs and lows for Pokemon GO.

Beta

I wasn't lucky enough to be part of the Pokemon GO beta, so this section features hearsay and is not admissible in court.

From what I was told, the beta was very different. Tall grass was a thing, and wild Pokemon spawned randomly instead of in set locations. The problem of that was, of course, trespassing. Legal problems will continue to frustrate Pokemon GO regardless, but that major red flag went away rather quickly to the chagrin of many.

July

Release: North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Hong Kong.

The world held its collective breath when Pokemon GO dropped, if only for a moment. Parents (and grandparents) raced their children to snatch the virtual critters on their radar.

It was hard to exaggerate what a social phenomenon the game instantly became. It doubled the size of mobile gaming market:

market share

Source: App Genie

The servers quickly buckled under the weight of half a billion installs. The challenge then wasn't how to find or catch Pokemon, but just getting the app to work at all. Many sleepless nights were had at Niantic HQ.

The month closed with the first major combat overhaul for Pokemon GO. The meta back then was simply spam Water Gun, since it singlehandedly out-dps everything else available. The July 29th update rebalanced quick and charged moves to make charged moves worth using, a balance that would remain to this date. It helped push the fanbase to develop new analytics for studying optimal moveset combinations. First tier lists begin to come online soon after.

August

Release: South and Central America, Southeast Asia

Niantic spent most of the month putting out fire caused by a Pokemon GO userbase 50 times their initial estimate:

Pokemon GO traffic analytics

Niantic also began their war on third-party map scanners. This made a lot of people very angry and widely regarded as a bad move. The other controversial decision in August was removal of the 3-step tracker. In its place came the "tall grass" and nearby trackers we're now accustomed with. 

On the combat front, several moves were removed from select Pokemon to better match their main series counterparts, and appraisals were introduced, but the biggest change was in dodge mechanics. Previously, an avid trainer could avoid all income damage by timing their dodges properly. Successful dodge now only reduces damage by 75%. Gone was a variable-length dodge window, and its place dodge becomes binary success or failure.

The GamePress Research Team came into being around this time, beginning a string of impressive research such as the Bubblestrat, the complete Combat Mechanics, and upgraded IV Calculator.

September

Release: Balkans

After a several delays, Pokemon GO Plus was finally released on September 16th and instantly sold out everywhere. Its supplies will remain sporadic for rest of the year.

Pokemon GO Plus

The Buddy system update was a welcomed reprieve from the ongoing Tracker War. The rest of the month was devoted to small but important quality-of-life improvements like fixing the IV bug and refining gym mechanics. 

GamePress launched the much lauded Gym Attacker and Defender Tier Lists, and Moveset Grades were first published this month.

October

Release: Africa and Central Asia

October was a major milestone for Pokemon GO.

With the launch hiccups subsiding and Tracker Wars reaching its inevitable conclusion, Niantic could finally refocus on adding new features to the game. Pokemon medal bonuses were introduced to improve catch rates; gym training prestige was buffed; and the first in-game event - Halloween - happened this month.

GamePress announced Catch Mechanics Week to celebrate the successful conclusion in our catch mechanics research. We formulated the Grand Unified Catch Theory as a complete description to how Pokemon GO calculates capture probabilities.

November

Release: Middle East

Generation I evolved into its final form in November.

Ditto finally showed up in Pokemon GO, completing the Gen I pokedex (besides legendaries). Daily bonuses were introduced to encourage persistent gameplay. Spawn rates of common Pokemon were reduced somewhat to improve spawn variety, and there were two major in-game events: the Lapras event to support tsunami stricken parts of Japan and the popular double-XP Thanksgiving event.

Lapras Event

A busy month, but the biggest and most important change was the CP Update. The base stats of the entire Pokedex were completely revamped, in benefit of speedy and specialized Pokemon from the main series. This caused the biggest metagame shift to date, reshuffling the Tier Lists significantly, and meant a lot of work for GamePress!

December

Release: South Asia

December was a month of transition as we welcomed Generation II to Pokemon GO. Niantic added several major sponsors in the United States and India leading to more Pokestops and gyms in these areas. Seven Baby Pokemon, and Togetic, from Generation II joined the fray, leading to a surge in incubator buys throughout the land. 

Oh, and we finally had mass transfer!

Winter came, and with it, two full weeks of holiday incentives to keep everyone playing. Limited time discounts were available in the item shop for the first time.

Looking Forward

2017 will bring with it new surprises and exciting moments.

For Pokemon GO, we are anticipating features like trading, events for legendary Pokemon and even more Pokemon from Generation II and beyond. No matter what surprises Niantic has in store, GamePress will maintain the standard that you expect and do our best to help you in your adventure!

2016

Lost in this narrative was a million personal stories of relationships made and rekindled, of pounds lost and milestones gained, of many happinesses and some tragedies. They're no less important, just too numerous and personal to document here. If you have a story of 2016 Pokemon GO to share, feel free to drop them below.

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