Games

Pokemon Go’s Eggs Aren’t Lootboxes

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Pokemon Go

Pokémon Go developer Niantic will release a new feature soon, for now, it is in the test phase and it will enable players to see what might be inside the game’s eggs before they walk the many miles to hatch them. It looks like this is a response to the argument that the game’s eggs are akin to loot boxes. There is a lot that could be better about Pokémon Go.

The new change to the free-to-play mobile app is a cool way to see what Pokémon could hatch out of an egg you might get while playing. Listed in order of possibility, you also get an idea of just how unlikely it might be that out of any egg will pop a polished version of the rarest beast. It looks like this is another step toward providing more transparency to players who are disappointed by grinding eggs for rare monsters, only to get yet another crappy beast.

Lootboxes, in general, is an exploitative tool used by developers/publishers to get gamers to spend money on a game they’ve already bought. They suggest that to get the most out of a game, to get an edge against others, you need to keep spending money and keep paying for more sealed containers that contain items/accessories/weapons that could enhance their performance in the game or take worth. It’s why they’re frequently recognized as gambling, and are even outlawed in some countries.

That’s not what Pokémon Go has, at all. The game’s eggs are a system that offers the player no significant advantages, and all work quite well within the core game, without ever having to pay any money at all, frequently giving rewards.

It works like this: via a variety of means, as you play the game you pick up eggs. They are color-coded based on how far you have to walk to hatch them—2/5/7/10/12km—and can contain a variety of Pokémon. To hatch them you need to put them in an incubator, and from the start of the game, you’re given one of these with infinite uses. You’re also, early on, showered in other incubators with limited numbers of uses.

It’s certainly a little shady—the game gets you used to have lots of incubators on hand, right up until you don’t. They’re often added in rewards for finishing the earliest tasks, but then just as you’re enjoying the supply runs out. And yeah, like the obvious dealer analogy, it turns out you can get more, but now you’re going to have to pay.

But, really crucially, you just don’t have to. In fact, it’s actually incredibly unnecessary to do so. While there are chances of hatching a particularly rare Pokémon at given times, those chances are so low, and the effort to hatch anything—walking at least a kilometer for the most generic eggs (when aided by a Super Incubator), and as far as 12km—means that there are invariably far better ways of finding those monsters elsewhere. Honestly, anyone who is spending fortunes on incubators, then marching around vast distances days on end to try to hatch that Axew, is making some very specific life choices.

Pokémon Go is a game made of random chances from the ground up. And not in a darkly cynical F2P exploitation model, but in fact in all the ways that make the free aspects of the game so great. Every time you catch a Pokémon, there’s a random chance it could be shiny. That’s so fun! Every Pokémon you catch has a random chance of being a “hundo,” a “four star,” or whatever name you give to those oh-so elusive 15/15/15-rated creatures. Heck, it could be a “shundo!” (It won’t be. It never is.) When you compete in a raid, the version of the creature you catch could turn out to be shiny! Shiny legendaries! When you send gifts to a friend (gained for free from Poké Stops, containing Poké Balls, potions, revives, and sometimes eggs) by random chance you can become “Lucky Friends,” meaning your next trade will be guaranteed to become a Lucky Pokémon. Heck, trading ‘mon randomizes their IVs (the ratings for Attack, Defense, and HP). Everything in this game is about dicerolls!

What’s so important about POGO is, first, that every element of it, bar the ticketed events, can be free. (I know someone on level 39 who swears he has never spent a single penny on the game.) Gather enough “friends” (which is so simply done via Facebook, Reddit, many apps like Poke Raid, etc.) and you’ll be removing Poké Balls in their hundreds to have room for anything else.

Also, “grind” works very differently when compared to the more usual perception of the term. Pokémon Go is a game designed to be played very slowly, over a very long time—but you can’t pay your way to shortcut this! It’s all core design, not exploitative slowdown. It’s a game based around the idea of going for a lot of walks—to not walk while playing it makes it a pretty tough endeavor (despite many excellent efforts by Niantic)—and over months gathering enough resources to evolve particular Pokémon. No one’s getting a Gyarados in their first week, because you need that 400 Magicarp candy. My son and I have been playing ridiculously intensively since August 2020, and we’re only 309 Swablu candies into the 400 we need for an Altaria. But those eight months have been punctuated by just so many significant moments, catches, evolves, and achievements. The game’s exploitation of us in terms of how it motivates us to keep playing is not to take our money, but to make us get some exercise.

As I said at the start, there is so much to criticize about POGO and the actions of its developers, Niantic. Nothing makes me angrier in the game than watching a legendary Pokémon mysteriously escape from multiple Excellent spin-thrown Ultra Balls after guzzling a dozen Golden Raspberries. Using up players’ remote raid passes to do garbage like that is gross, and doubly so when it makes my excited little boy burst into tears. But rather than seeing the game’s eggs at loot boxes, I see them as just another way of getting fun surprises in the game, and you’re provided with an infinite incubator to receive them.

As I recognized at the start, I do think the game intentionally tries to get you used to have a group of incubators on hand. However, it does still seldom offer extras as rewards or add them in the 1 coin boxes in the store. In eight months, I’ve bought extras once, and that was as part of throwing out on an Adventure Box.

Most of all, you’re not competing against anyone else. Sure, there are battles, but you certainly don’t need the rarest Pokémon to win at those—my six-year-old is likely slaughtering you just fine without them. There’s just no meaningful advantage to the player to have one, and as such, they’re incomparable with trying to gain that elite soccer player to gain a leg-up in online competition. Yes, people want to complete their collections.

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