Pokémon Go has experimented with new gameplay mechanics and alterations to existing ones over the past year or so. Some have significantly impacted how you play, for better or worse, while others seem avoidable in the long run. For every cool new idea, such as the long-awaited Campfire map integration that makes teaming up with local players more convenient, there’s also a nerf to how remote raids work that annoys its player base or the huge/tiny Pokémon that so far only seems to exist for those collecting platinum medals.
With the release of the new Pokémon Go Showcase mechanic in the latest event update, which allows you to assign your Pokémon to Pokéstops and evaluate them against other’s submissions in a way that sounds remarkably like the popular card game Top Trumps, let’s talk about the most anticipated addition to Go since raids began: Pokémon Go Routes.
For those who don’t know, a select few saw this new mechanic during Summer Games Fest, and it promises to not only give you yet another way to share your gameplay experience but also be a feature accessible to those out in the sticks. Rural players have had a rough time of it recently, especially with the recent nerfs, and while accessibility is still a huge issue for many players, this at least should make the game more enjoyable for a wider audience.
From what little information we have from a preview from Pokémon Go Hub, Routes are user-generated walking paths that you can record, then share with the wider Pokémon Go community. This could be a scenic walk along the beach, a quaint bit of countryside, or even your regular running/dog walking trip. The only prohibited Routes are those that require trespassing on private property, or that look like genitalia/offensive symbols. Routes must also pass through at least one PokéStop or gym, with a circular Route starting and ending at the same location being acceptable.
Once created and approved, you should be able to re-walk your own Routes, and for completing any Route, you receive things such as XP rewards, passive bonuses, and increased Pokémon spawns. This all sounds good, but for this to become a popular new stable feature rather than a flash-in-the-pan, there needs to be a tangible reward incentivizing players to get out and walk rather than impose yet more nerfs to systems that worked in the past.
As a fun exercise, I thought it would be a good idea to speculate what we don’t know about Routes. Will I be disappointed? Probably, but if most of these come to pass, it’d be worth it.
Let’s start with the biggest incentive: Routes must be a free feature. For too long, Niantic has attempted to apply a carrot-and-stick approach to its key changes, but players have widely noticed and repeatedly protested against the negative ones. Attempts at tempting players outside have been largely unsuccessful, such as the elite raids not working as intended and now seemingly cast into the vault along with the much-maligned EX raids and the original gyms that resulted in a Blissey-shaped nightmare. By making it free, people will use it and express themselves, but putting it behind any paywall will only discourage them.
Next is some clarification on the limitations and spawn increases. In an ideal world, spawns should increase as you start the walk and at the end when you finish the Route for a set time. This gives players a chance to rest and catch Pokémon. There should also be no limitations on how many Routes you can complete. If you’re the only player in your area and wish to do five laps of your running route, you shouldn’t be penalized for it.
To entice those in rural towns where there are at least some PokéStops, you should get a decent item such as an ultra ball or regular rare candy, while completing a Route with a long distance should fall in line with rewards players earn for completing raids, with a very small chance of replacing the entire pool with a master ball. That last one might be a stretch, but more master balls make catching those pesky Galarian legendary birds much easier!
Pokémon Go players love to see shiny Pokémon, so why not increase the base rate while walking a Route? If you’re playing during Go Fest, the regional tours, Pokémon Go community days, or even spotlight hours, I’d love to see the shiny odds significantly buffed here. And for those looking to complete the Pokédex, why not introduce Skiddo as a Route-exclusive Pokémon, with increased odds of finding one during the first month? It worked for the Scatterbug line with postcards, so it should work here, too, right?
As for my most blue-sky idea, why not have rare Pokémon, specifically hard-to-find region-only ones, appear on a monthly rotation? I’m specifically talking about those found in isolated areas such as Pachirisu, Carnivine, Maractus, Sigilyph, Bouffalant, Hawlucha, Klefki, and Comfey. However, you can include any that don’t move regions or have Alolan/Galarian/Paldean forms. Moreover, if your region’s Pokémon appears on rotation, it could instead have the only shiny form location to make up for it; this shiny clause should also apply if that Pokemon appears at Go Fest.
While the reality of Pokémon Go Routes may be wildly different from what I wish for it to be, I sincerely hope it’s a feature that keeps me and the rest of the community coming back. The recent Niantic downsizing is a sad story, with many people losing their jobs. Part of the reason is arrogance, as decisions to align the game with company ideals mean fewer people are prepared to play and pay. I firmly believe that Niantic aims to extend an olive branch with this new feature, but only time will tell if ambition wins over its jaded fanbase.