Greater accessibility must remain part of Pokémon GO and Wizards Unite after Coronavirus

This weekend was a great test for Niantic and their continued approach to making their games more accessible.

Between a massive Safari Zone event on Pokémon Go (originally due to take place in Liverpool) and a 24 hour Community Day on Wizard’s Unite, which were both fully playable from home, there was plenty to keep you busy inside from two games that normally prefer you to be outdoors.

Both events passed the play at home test, were great fun, and went off – mostly – without a hitch.

For Pokémon Go, any tickets purchased were automatically redeemed in-game at your allotted day and time. You could then put on an Incense in the game at the start and it lasted a full eight hours, bringing in event-only spawns.

From 10am local time, once that Incense was on, I was getting a new Pokémon spawn every thirty seconds. This was in addition to any that may have been around me and let’s just say, I was glued to my phone the entire time.

I happily bagged twelve Shiny Pokémon from this event, including the brand new and guaranteed Shiny Chinchou for completing the Special Research. But amongst my community, I’d actually done poorly. I know people who got as many as 42 Shiny Pokémon! It was absurd.

This was all in addition to the regional Relicanth spawning in the wild, and Unowns which spelled out LIVERPOOL. I managed to get 40 Relicanth and all Unowns except for I.  V also seemed to be less common than the other letters. You could even get the red-striped Basculin instead of the blue which would normally spawn in Liverpool.

The best part of all, they’re still going to re-run this event at a later date in Liverpool for those who didn’t partake, but I probably won’t need to visit now unless new spawns are added as I comfortably got what I wanted from this event.

Having gone to Dortmund last year, I know how these events are run and how exhausting they can be, so to have a similarly prepared experience playable from my sofa was immense. I had a great time from start to finish

I did briefly take a walk around our local park towards the end of the event as part of my daily exercise and put some lures on (which were lasting four hours) sure enough, spawns were in full supply. Although it was so odd walking around quiet parks and along empty streets when normally you’re surrounded by thousands of like-minded people at these major events. Still, while the atmosphere was changed, the essence very much remained the same.

There were technical hiccups, of course. There was quite often a delay in a new spawn appearing from the Incense, sometimes a spawn never even came through, and sometimes you had to click the one prior before a new one would pop. Gotchas and Pokeballs also seemed to have problems picking up spawns or were identifying Pokémon that never showed up on screen.

While the lures brought monsters in by the bucketload, being indoors, it was inconceivable that an Incense on its own could ever replicate the level of spawns you’d normally get from a Safari Zone or Go Fest. Trust me, you’ve never seen anything quite like it.

But considering the circumstances, I think Niantic have done extremely well and possibly set a future precedent for themselves. Not everyone can or wants to make trips to other countries and cities for a major PoGo event. But with this initiative, Niantic have discovered there’s a market for the alternative. There’s advantages to running events of this scale both locally and remotely, and as far as they’re concerned, there’s probably a lot of money to be made from both sides of the coin.

They even hosted another event on Sunday where Sentrets were spawning more regularly and a new family of Pokémon would be drawn to your Incense on the hour. I managed to bag another three Shiny Sentret from this event, while other friends got Shinies like Teddiursa and Bronzor.

As for Wizards Unite, I think the 24 Hour Community Day was the first time that the team really got it right in creating an enjoyable event playable from home.

It was still a bit contentious having Murtlaps in Portkeys – especially considering how many are needed to prestige – but considering remote fortressing wasn’t ready in time, dependent on how you were positioned, it was entirely possible to get to Gold and even fully complete the page in the time allotted.

For me, I did manage to make it except for the Murtlaps. But those will be claimable from Fortresses at any point and I’ll definitely be hopping on the Knight Bus to make sure that happens. On the flip side, that now means I never need Pickett, Mountain Troll or Demiguise ever again. It’s kind of bittersweet.

But the rates at which the spawns were coming through Trace Tonics is better than its ever been. This event really worked and hopefully Niantic and WB keep it up in a similar way for the rescheduled March Community day in the next few weeks.

That said, there remains a problem in Wizards Unite with Low Foundables being more resistant than Severes during these events. I wasted as much as fifteen spell energy on one Mountain Troll, and often found myself burning through ten on a Demiguise. And as ever, there wasn’t enough spell energy on the map to compensate.

Something else I’ve noticed is that rates for Spell Energy on the map were turned back up once the event ended. Which means someone is actively turning down the rates of frequent spell energy on the map and turning up the resistance of foundables during these events, then adjusting after. And right now, that’s just not cool. Either depart or stay caught, don’t jerk me around!

While both events can be considered a great success for their respective games, one game still has further to go than the other. While Niantic are practically giving away Incense and balls to make sure people can keep playing Pokémon Go, Wizards Unite still feels like a game that’s determined to cashgrab – an issue that has plagued it since launch.

Despite the goodwill intentions – adding spell energy on the map, putting it in greenhouses, upping the amount given from gifts – it still never feels like it’s enough and this comes from someone who’s a Level 45+ and averages Great and Masterful casts. Foundables are supposed to resist me less the higher level I am, but that’s just not the case at all.

Today’s Knight Bus announcement, however, is another big step forward for the game and will open up so many exciting possibilities for its future. It’s actually starting to feel like Wizards Unite is turning a corner.

It’s hard not to put the games side by side seeing as how both had events running simultaneously. I played both games to the full, making the most of both events, and while there were individual issues on both sides, I generally feel satisfied with how well both games performed and what I got from these events.

And I’m now convinced, more than ever, that both exhibited a level of accessibility that must remain once lockdowns are lifted and the pandemic has subsided. This will open up the games to new audiences, allow for more creative possibilities that never would have been possible before, and hopefully help prolong the game’s respective lifespans.

It seems that’s already in Niantic’s thoughts as the Knight Bus component is very much here to stay. But what about Pokemon Go? Will Remote Raiding remain a thing in six months time? How about the prolonged Incense duration? Will we see more large scale events playable from home?

Coronavirus could have completely decimated both of these games and been catastrophic to their fortunes. The teams have had to work around the clock, coming up with creative ways to make sure they can still be played in full, wherever you are. Because of that, we’re seeing amazing new features that may never have made it into the game, much to the credit of the teams working on them.

It’s not all in place yet and the transitions haven’t been seamless but I love what I’ve been seeing and I hope, at least in part, these changes are here to stay.

About the author

Sally Willington

Sally is relatively new to gaming since a newfound addiction to Nintendo Switch. Now they just can't stop playing, anything and everything. Sally especially loves a good RPG and thinks that Yuna may just be one of her favourite characters ever.
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