Letters to Niantic: Spiritomb & the Paywall

At certain times of year, familiar recurring things happen in game in Pokémon GO that people have come to expect. With any sort of Christmas/winter event we see Stantler with their bells costume, and Pikachu dons a costume. With Fashion Week we see Furfrou and other Pokémon in ‘fashionable outfits’. And with Halloween, we see Yamask and Spiritomb make a reappearance in game.

Spiritomb debuted in 2018 via a special research line called ‘A Spooky Message‘, giving us our first ever change to catch this illusive ghost. In 2019 it appeared in a similar special research again giving us limited encounters. In 2020 it came back with a bang, their shiny debut, and was available in field research tasks from PokéStops, so you could grind to your hearts content. In October 2021 Spiritomb was available the whole month, via the field research tasks ‘Catch 18 ghost/dark types‘. In 2022 however…. we haven’t really had a mention of Spiritomb for Part 1 or Part 2 of the event, it hasn’t been in field research tasks so far, and isn’t hinted at being in them for Part 2. In 2022, we’ve only been able to get a single Spiritomb so far, and it was locked behind a paywall, as a reward for completing the $5USD (or your local equivalent) Halloween timed research.

Paywalling Pokémon has been a hot topic in Pokémon GO previously, (Galarian Mr. Mime and Regigigas anyone?), but they were Pokémon debuts, so a slightly different situation. Seeing a Pokémon suddenly paywalled that was previously available for 3 different annual events, and in field research tasks, is a bizarre choice! For any new or returning players who have missed out on those easily obtainable Spiritomb, their choice is suddenly to either cough up 5 bucks for a Pokédex entry, or hope it comes back in 2023 for free. Paywalling Pokémon, especially Pokémon like Spritomb that 1. are only available at limited times of year, and 2. aren’t even meta relevant, just isn’t something we can get on board with.

Many trainers, myself included, were hoping to continue that grind to attempt to get their first shiny Spiritomb this year. When Spiritomb wasn’t mentioned in the initial announcements for the Halloween event we assumed it was an oversight, and awaited reports of the ‘inevitable’ field research task when the event began, and sadly those reports just never came. We then hoped it would be mentioned for Part 2 of the event and the details for that were released, and still nothing!

Maybe Spiritomb not being mentioned for Part 2 is an oversight, or maybe Niantic really just do want to make it cost $5USD this year, when it has always been free before. If it is suddenly to become widely available in Part 2 when it hasn’t been mentioned, I wonder how many trainers will have bought the $5USD research to get their Pokédex entry already, and would feel somewhat conned into spending that money.

Searching ‘Spiritomb’ on twitter shows many disgruntled trainers who can’t wrap their heads around this decision, and neither can we. When something has always been free, why does it suddenly cost money? You can’t buy the timed research with coins so there is no way to buy this research for free, it can only be bought with cold hard cash. It feels like the timed research is $5USD for a pose and a Spiritomb encounter.

We can understand wanting a Pokémon to stay rare, but if that is the case, why has it been available so freely in 2021 and 2020? If every year it was only available for a single encounter or two in a free special research we think that would be quite fun, but this paywall doesn’t sit well, especially for a Pokémon we can only hunt for during Halloween typically.

How do you feel about Spiritomb being locked behind paid timed research? Were you hoping to be able to hunt it this year to get that haunting blue shiny? Let us know in the comments!

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Turtwig obsessive, real life Psyduck, Pokémon GO AR Photographer, found footage horror fan and Pokémon GO Hub AR Queen

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