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Pokemon Go Did WHAT With Shiny Snivy?

Our long-awaited chance is finally here, fellow Pokemon Go Trainers: shiny Snivy is coming. “What’s that?” one might think, “Community Day is going back to Pokemon people actually want? Is the deluge of already-released Gen I shines over?” No, dear reader, none of that is true. Snivy is getting its shiny form as part of a weekly event.

Niantic just announced a countdown to its Pokemon Go Tour: Kanto event. The event celebrates both Pokemon’s 25th anniversary and Pokemon Go’s fifth. The party takes the form as a paid event, featuring the first generation of iconic critters, although non-paying players will still be able to do special raids and quests. As we close in on the February festivities, Pokemon Go will feature one generation of Pokemon every week. The first of these will be Unova, Snivy’s generation.

So what’s the problem? Isn’t an event with a new shiny a good thing? And who really cares about Unova, that group of Pokemon with a trash bag and an ice cream cone? Well, love or hate Snivy, the way its shiny is being handled speaks to a shift in the Pokemon Go strategy—one that might not be entirely player-friendly.

Pokemon Go made headlines in 2016 when it released most of the first generation Pokemon into the wild. Kids and adults alike felt compelled to catch ’em all, and they actually could (minus the Legendary birds and Mew/Mewtwo, naturally saved for special events). The one tricky part, region-specific Pokemon, were still spun into a media event when travel companies flew a man around the world so he could be the first to complete his collection. There was excitement, there was wonder, and above all else, a sense of discovery.

Fast forward four years later, and that sense of discovery is harder to maintain. It’s an obstacle all live-service games face, but Niantic has an added challenge in that there are only so many Pokemon. We’re on Gen VI, and there are eight in total. If Pokemon Go keeps the focus on filling the PokeDex, players will eventually do just that. Then it’s game over—goodbye player retention and revenue.

Several activities have been added to keep players invested, but the most successful of these is shiny Pokemon collecting. On paper, shinies are just the same Pokemon but in a different color. Their rarity in the main Pokemon games, however, has given them an air of mystique. Finding a shiny stirs up that joy of discovery. Pokemon Go has had great success with shinies—a new shiny is guaranteed to drum up interest (and probably money) for an event.

For years, Niantic had found a sweet spot between rarity and predictability in its Community Day event. Once a month, Pokemon Go is full of one specific Pokemon, and the odds of getting it in its shiny form are drastically increased. Afterwards, shinies are hard to find again. This rewards players who make time to play on Community Day with a mostly guaranteed shiny, but keeps shinies from being so common that they lose their appeal. Or at least it did, until this past year.

It would be easy to say that COVID-19 changed everything, but Niantic was actually making changes to Community Day in 2019. Until then, there was a pattern players could expect and even looked forward to. Community Day featured popular Pokemon, in particular starters like Charmander or powerhouses like Larvitar. The players of 2019 were expecting this dynamic to continue with beloved Dragon-type, Gible. Instead, Niantic threw a curveball and stealth-released shiny Gible for a December event. The event happened to be themed around eggs, which can be hatched faster using items called incubators that you can spend real money on. It seemed clear that Niantic realized Gible’s popularity and decided to leverage it for a profitable event instead of a free Community Day.

COVID did change things, however, by forcing Pokemon Go to become a play-at-home game. This, along with the Gible event, called Community Day into question. What would Niantic feature next? Would there even be Community Day, an event about going outside in groups, during the pandemic? Snivy and its fellow Gen V starters seemed to follow in the rotation. Instead, Niantic skipped March (understandable) and kicked off the first pandemic Community Day with Abra.

It was all at once a baffling and accepted move. Abra is popular, but not as much as Gible or Lucario—both of which had Community Days skipped over in favor of egg events. It seemed like another case of Niantic deliberately saving the good stuff for paid content. On the other hand, the world was still getting used to this new normal. It was okay if Pokemon Go had one lame event if it meant people stayed at home. The next month saw Seedot, another dull choice, get the spotlight. The rest of 2020’s Community Days all starred Gen I Pokemon, two of which already had shiny forms in the game. As Niantic stayed locked in the past, the question reemerged: would Snivy and the other Gen V starters ever get their day?

2021 seems to be saying yes, but no. Shiny Snivy is coming on January 5, but in a non-Community Day event. This means its odds of being shiny are much lower. Getting one will be a matter of luck, grinding, and/or using handy paid items like Incense and Raid Passes. The next Community Day, meanwhile, is Machop—a Pokemon that lost a fan vote but is being featured anyway. This past weekend, players had the chance to pay money to catch an exclusive Mr. Mime.

Granted, the pandemic is far from over. Vaccines are being distributed, but the process is lengthy and we’re best off keeping gatherings to a minimum. Niantic might still be choosing Community Day candidates with this mindset. Yet, when you consider the general shift towards paid events—even Community Day has paid bonus tickets now—it seems more like a deliberate direction for the game’s future.

“So what?” one might say. “You have to work a little harder to get your Pokemon in a different shade of green. Get over it.” And yes, there are many worse things going on in gaming and the world at the moment. This is less to raise an alarm and more to reflect. Many of us have our love story and subsequent disillusion with a mobile game. Often the breaking point is when the game starts to ask for more (money or time) than it gives. Snivy isn’t that final straw, but it makes that moment a little clearer in my mind. I might have to retire before I catch ’em all, if only because they’re withholding the good ones for paid events.

Next: Genshin Impact: 5 Most Powerful 5-Star Characters (And 5 Alternatives To Them)

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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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