December 16, 2016
'Pokemon GO' December Update: A Huge Disappointment And Then Some [Opinion]

The Pokemon GO December update has arrived, and instead of getting players hooked on the game once again, it may actually end up driving them away.

There was a lot of excitement in the run-up to Pokemon GO's holiday update, which many believed would come chock full of features. Chief among those rumored features was the arrival of 100 new Pokemon – the so-called "Generation 2" Pokemon that would have boosted the total number of available creatures to about 250. And the excitement really heated up in the first few days of December, when, according to BGR, Starbucks updated its website and released official literature detailing what baristas should expect upon the release of the Pokemon GO December update.

The Starbucks document stated that most company-operated stores in the U.S. would be converted into a PokeStop or Gym, but more importantly, teased that the "world of Pokemon GO is about to expand with new Pokemon." That essentially confirmed that the Gen 2 Pokemon were coming, but instead of 100 new Pokemon, gamers were mostly disappointed to find out that only seven were included in the new update, which rolled out on December 8. Worse, these creatures couldn't be found in the wild, but could only be hatched in eggs. Oh, and there was also a Pikachu with a Christmas hat, and for this writer, this brought back memories of that old Simpsons episode, where the makers of the Malibu Stacy doll updated the doll with a new hat. And the Twitter user below seems to agree.
Unlike the little girls (and Mr. Burns' assistant Waylon Smithers) who went crazy over the new Malibu Stacy doll because of her new hat, Pokemon GO gamers were less than enthused about holiday twist to Pikachu, to say little of the extremely limited number of new creatures. The most iconic and recognizable Pokemon has a new hat – so what? Where are the tons of Gen 2 Pokemon we expected, and why do we still have to walk so many kilometers for our buddies to generate candy? It's winter, for crying out loud, so why can't distance requirements be temporarily lowered in the spirit of the holidays?

The good news is that SlashGear reported on the possibility of a separate holiday event kicking off on Monday, December 19, which could come with XP multipliers and shorter walking distance requirements, among other features. The bad news, though, is that the Pokemon GO December update is what it is — all you get are minor convenience-related updates, and a handful of baby Pokemon which you can't sight in the wild like you could every other creature. You don't get the Legendary Birds and Mewtwo, and as for the arrival of the Gen 2 Pokemon, SlashGear also wrote earlier this week that they won't be arriving this month after all, but are still on track for an early-2017 launch.

Disappointing, isn't it? But let's divert our attention from the lack of hot new features and the lack of those 100 new Pokemon, and focus on the fact that the seven new ones released with the Pokemon GO December update can only be hatched. Forbes gaming writer Paul Tassi wrote earlier this week that this may be a sign that Pokemon GO has become a "pay-to-win" title.

All players have one incubator they can use for free and on an unlimited basis, with leveling up to multiples of five gaining you a bonus incubator or two with limited uses. Otherwise, you need to pay PokeCoins (which are often bought in bulk with real money) to buy these limited-usage incubators, and with hatching the only way to unlock any one of the seven new Pokemon, it looks like a case of Pokemon GO maker Niantic chasing the almighty dollar through in-game monetization. More incubators mean more chances of hatching all seven baby Pokemon, and as established, additional incubators cost PokeCoins, unless you've just leveled up to level five, level 10, level 15, and so on.

In conclusion, Forbes' Tassi wrote that the Pokemon GO December update is far from enough to lure most inactive players back to the fold.
"In addition to heavily favoring paying players, I simply don't think this is a very good addition to the game in its current form. Using the existing egg system, by simply inserting these baby Pokemon into the 'loot pool' is a poor way to increase engagement during a time when the game desperately needs it."
Count this writer in among the disappointed gamers considering hanging it up after the launch of the new update. And it's probably about time. Close friends have long stopped playing it, and my girlfriend has asked me numerous times why I still keep playing. Sure, there's a good chance Niantic will make the game's dwindling player base happy with the rumored Christmas event. But by the looks of things, their Pokemon GO December update in its current form has laid a big fat egg in terms of features (or lack thereof), player engagement, and reception from gamers.

[Featured Image by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images]