Letters to Niantic: The Referral ‘Bonus’

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This week is the Astral Eclipse Event, and the build up to a special weekend of both in person and global activities for the Ultra Beast Arrival event. As part of the Ultra Beast Arrival event, we have a new type of Challenge, a Global Referral Challenge.

From November 21, 2022, until November 26, 2022, a challenge based on referring friends to join will be available. It will grant special bonuses depending on how many people join Pokémon GO via referral codes.

  • 50,000 Trainers referred: All trainers will receive a Lure Module via a bundle in the in-game shop.
  • 100,000 Trainers referred: All trainers will be able to use Beast Balls when facing the Ultra Beasts in raid battles during the Ultra Beast event.

It’s definitely an interesting choice for a Challenge, because six years down the line, most people who play Pokémon GO have been in it for the long haul, and fewer new trainers are signing up. Referring your friends to GO is a tricky one. Most trainers will have a set group of friends that they already play with, so they can’t invite them, and for most of us, our friends and family are very aware that we play Pokémon GO. If they wanted to play, they’d probably have joined us a long time ago, or mentioned it. So who do we have to invite?

I’ve seen plenty of codes posted on social media (heck, I’ve done this in the hopes someone would join and I could get the referral rewards), but other than that, how do you approach referring someone? If it was a simple case of being able to send out message to your contacts with a link, you might feel a bit better about sending out unsolicited referrals, but as they require a specific method of joining, it all feels a bit impossible. I’ve sent approximately zero referrals since the referrals were added to game. Everyone I know who likes Pokémon already plays, or did and wasn’t into it, and unless my pals are being super secretive, I don’t think there are any other secret Pokémon fans in my life. Your best chance at referrals is with former players in my opinion, and you need a good event to help lure them back in.

Niantic has done some awesome promo work for the Ultra Beasts, from the found footage style video clips, to real life posters in London and LA, and even sponsored gifts promoting the in person events this weekend, but most of those things don’t actually help us refer people with our codes, or do more than hype up existing players. Don’t get me wrong, as a lover of found footage horror I am obsessed with the videos they’ve been releasing, but I’m not sure how useful they are for this aspect of the event, bar sharing them and chucking your code in the share.

How this referral challenge has been advertised is another issue. This is the in game news pop up, which mentions the challenge, rewards, and offers a link to their more in depth blog post. I suspect that trainers who aren’t so into social media, aren’t as aware of the event information, because clicking into the news takes you away from the game, and onto the Pokémon GO Live website. While we here at GOHub, and many other social media accounts share this information, not everyone is going to read it. There is no in game counter for these sorts of challenges, so it is very easily forgotten about. I forgot about it until I saw the Pokéminers tweet an update on our progress! With no in game progress bar, many trainers will be completely unaware this is going on, or will have forgotten about it entirely.

Speaking of progress bars, there is an official one on the Pokémon GO Live website, buried in the original article that promoted the Ultra Beast Arrivals event. I found it after some hunting and at the time of writing on 24th November, this is where we stand:

Let’s be honest now, with two days to go, it’s not looking good.

Having to hunt for the progress bar to see how badly we are doing at this isn’t ideal, it should be something prominent on their website, promoted on Pokémon GO social media, and appear in game. Currently I can’t find a single tweet by the official Pokémon GO App account updating on our progress, so most trainers will have zero concept of our current impending failure! We could be about to fail our first ever global challenge, after having been so successful in previous ones.

So bar lack of information and promotion, what are the other issues? People on social media have suggested that they feel that because of how difficult this task is, it almost feels like it encourages people to refer themselves, and start a second account, which is against Niantic’s terms and conditions. With no one to invite, people will be setting up second and third accounts to try to get the job done, and potentially putting their accounts at risk.

The friends list itself is another issue. We can currently have 400 friends in GO, and many folks will have a pretty full list. To be successful in a referral you have to not only refer the person, but also accept their friend request, so you have to have space on your list. I always think my list is pretty neat and tidy, with the majority being people I’ve met IRL, or social media friends, but somehow I still barely have any space. If I was to start referring in a major way I’d have to delete people to make room for them. More friends list space please!

And finally, the other big elephant in the room… the bonuses for this challenge are, quite simply, bad. They are bad bonuses. A single lure module? Beast Balls? That’s it?! There really isn’t much incentive here to even try to complete this challenge. Beast Balls may increase your chances of catching an Ultra Beast, and look cool while doing it, but that is literally it. The bonuses are just a bit of a nothing. Lure Modules are often given out with special research, and Beast Balls aren’t much of an incentive if we’re being objective. They might increase your chance at catching that hundo, but that’s it. Quicker catching means you can complete more raids (more money for Niantic), but having had all the Ultra Beasts featured in raids over the Season of Light, people are pretty burnt out by them, and I can’t see my local community being particularly interested in this event full stop, even if we were successful in the bonuses.

Most previous Global Challenges have been what I would describe as fairly ‘passive’, catching, hatching, things we are doing anyway in game, so they felt like we could accomplish them without being inconvenienced. It doesn’t feel the same with this Global Challenge, because it’s just so hard to even try to refer anyone.

How are you feeling about this challenge? Had you forgotten about it entirely? Do you feel a bit awkward and anxious asking people? Or are you one of the few who managed to refer pals and is smashing it? Let us know in the comments!

   

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