The problem with GO Battle League rewards

GO Battle League

Two of the most controversial aspects of GO Battle League are the pool of rewards and the reward structure. In fact, according to the results seen in several polls on Reddit, the pool of rewards was one of the most common reasons why some players stopped playing in GBL.

Niantic has been tweaking the pool of rewards every season, but in my opinion, they haven’t found the sweet spot yet. According to their official announcement of Season 6, one of the changes expected for this season was a totally new reward structure, which gives Trainers more opportunities to earn exclusive rewards through ranking up”. Did they deliver? Let’s see.


GO Battle League Season 6 rewards

As you may already know, some ranks have a guaranteed encounter, which you’ll be able to catch if you get the number of wins required for the encounter to happen. The following infographic by Pokéminers (as always, full credit to them!) sums it up very well:

GBL Season 6 guaranteed encounter pool

The encounter reward is in the 3rd slot. Thus, you need 3 wins in a set to get it. Let’s say you’re a rank 11 player and you win 3/5 battles in a set. If it’s the FIRST time in this specific rank that you reach 3 wins, you’ll get a Squirtle. If you don’t rank up at the end of the set and you reach 3 wins again, you’ll get a Pokémon from the encounter pool, not necessarily Squirtle. So it’s only guaranteed once per rank.

Seasons 1-5 had 10 ranks, meaning that the required number of wins to rank up wasn’t very steep except for the final ranks. This season there are 24 ranks, meaning that if you win consistently, you’ll rank up pretty fast. Ranking up pretty fast would mean that you don’t stay in a rank for more than a couple of sets. This means that (almost) all the Pokémon you’ll get until the higher ranks will be guaranteed encounters. And let’s be honest, the guaranteed encounter pool is pretty bad. And most importantly, NONE of these starters will know their CD Exclusive moves and are almost useless without them. See the problem here?

Alright, the pool of guaranteed encounters is not that great, but how about the general encounter pool? Let’s take a look.

General encounter pool (R1)

This encounter pool for the first rank was shared on Reddit. I know, it’s just the encounter pool for the lower ranks, but things don’t improve that much as you rank up. This is the perfect example of why some players don’t even bother trying. Why would you invest so much time and effort to reach 3 wins and get a common spawn such as Ponyta, Growlithe or Vulpix?

And of course, the encounter pool does not clean up at each rank. This means that new Pokémon will be added to the encounter pool as you rank up. u/carllyq pointed out on reddit that at Rank 14 the encounter pool has 22 different Pokémon: 12 starters, 5 Gen V Pokémon, 2 previous CD Pokémon, 2 currently boosted spawns and Nincada. Yikes. Good luck finding what you want…

Suggestion: how to improve the encounter pool

There are thousands of ways of improving the current encounter pool. I will list some of them below and a short explanation of why I think they’d be good options:

  • Pokémon with Exclusive moves: Would you play more if you could get an Ice Shard/Ice Beam Lapras? How about a Lick Gengar or a Meteor Mash Metagross? And… how about a double legacy Dewgong?
  • Rare Pokémon: Riolu, Gible, Deino, Axew, just to name a few. Pokémon that are worth your effort
  • Fully-evolved starters with their CD moves: Alright, we can’t get 2018 CD moves this December. But how about adding Blast Burn Charizard or Frenzy Plant Venusaur to the encounter pool?

Huge missed opportunity.

GO Battle league rewards

In fact, Alex Moffit (GBL’s Product Manager at Niantic) said in an interview that one of their main goals was to slowly reduce the amount of legacy moves to make it easier for newer players to catch up and compete. But they don’t want to un-legacy moves in bulk, as players who have invested Legacy TMs, traded for a legacy Pokémon or even day 1 players who had these legacy Pokémon should also have some sort of benefit for their effort. And improving the encounter pool in GBL with legacy Pokémon looks like the perfect way to do it if you ask me.


Streak system of rewards: good or bad idea?

Another issue that is often discussed on reddit is the whole structure of rewards in GBL. How many times have you won 3 battles in a set and failed to obtain the bundle of rare candies? Frustrating, isn’t it?

The way I see it, the combination of a system of rewards that is based on streaks and an ELO system (or MMR system, however you want to call it) just doesn’t work! And I’ll explain why.

Problem: Tanking to farm rewards

The “purpose” of an MMR system is to make you compete against players with more or less the same skill level as yours. Go check your win/loss ratio, it’s probably pretty close to 0.5 (50%). If you reach your “ceiling” (that means, the highest MMR for your level of skill), you will probably win ~2.5 times per set on average.

“Solution”: Tank your MMR and farm rewards. If you don’t care about your W/L ratio, tanking your MMR and then beating less skilled opponents feels like an “exploit” to the system. I don’t encourage you to do it, I have never done it and never plan to do it, but I understand why some players follow this strategy.

Reworking the system: Battle Points

I’ll explain how I’d rework the system. Feel free to agree or disagree with me, this is just an idea on how to improve the current system, but I’m sure there are plenty of better alternatives. My solution: Battle Points.

Bottle Caps

Battle Points (BP) is not a revolutionary concept in the world of Pokémon. If you played the main series games, you’re probably aware of their existence. They are a type of currency in the Pokémon world that can be won as a prize for defeating Trainers in specific battle facilities and can be either traded for items or paid to Move Tutors to teach certain moves.

Of course, the higher you climb, the larger the number of BP you get per win. This would encourage you to rank up instead of tanking as the most optimal strategy.

Battle Tower in Pokémon Sword and Shield

Let’s say you’re a rank 15 player, meaning you get “x” BP per win. Then, you could go to the in-game shop (or a new Battle Shop) and buy an Elite TM for 50 BP. There, problem solved. Other alternatives could be Bottle Caps (items that increase the IVs of a Pokémon in the main series games), Held items (for example: Charcoal, an item that boosts fire type moves) to add a new layer of strategy to the PvP battle system, or even cosmetic uniforms to battle (similar to the uniforms you can wear in the stadiums in Pokémon Sword and Shield).

Items and their BP cost in Pokémon Sword and Shield

Another interesting idea would be (World) Tournaments or in-game tournaments vs. NPCs where you could test your skills and earn plenty of BP to buy useful stuff in the Battle Shop. Possibilities are endless!

Pokémon World Tournament (Unova)

Parting words

And that’s it! Let us know what you think in the comments section, do you also think that the GBL encounter pool or the system of rewards should be reworked?

In fact, this is not the first analysis that I’ve done regarding GO Battle League rewards. The first one I did was back in May, at the beginning of Season 2. Feel free to check it out if you want to see how the system has evolved. Spoiler alert: it’s even worse now.

Another interesting suggestion would be to increase the level of the Pokémon you catch as rewards from GBL. Powering up a Pokémon from level 15 to 50 is really expensive.

Oh and I almost forgot, although it was not confirmed by Niantic in their official announcement of Season 6, u/JBrandse confirmed on reddit that you’ll need to reach Rank 19 in order to get an Elite Charge TM!

Take care! 😉