Wrapping up 2021 in Pokémon GO: best events and features

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2021 is now officially over, and what a year it has been!

Believe it or not, there have been 40+ major events this year in Pokémon GO, a global GO Fest event and we’ve even seen the return of some Safari Zones.

However, completionists are probably not as happy. Well, unless they like costumed Pokémon and new hats. Including Bergmite and Avalugg, only 48 new Pokémon were released in Pokémon GO in 2021. Comparing it to the amount of Pokémon released in the previous five years (154, 170, 119, 100 and 113), 48 seems to be an all-time low. It was kind of inevitable though, due to the fact that Pokémon GO is quickly catching up with the main series games in terms of available Pokémon.

The release of new Mega Evolutions has also been pretty slow. Out of the 46 different mega-evolved species needed to get the Mega Evolution Guru platinum badge, only 17 of them are available in Pokémon GO as of now. 9 were released in 2020, and 8 more (Ampharos, Gyarados, Manectric, Lopunny, Altaria, Slowbro, Absol, Steelix) were released in 2021. At the current pace, it’d take close to 4 more years to see them all being released in Pokémon GO.

So, how was your Pokémon GO journey in 2021? Share your greatest achievements in the comments section below!

Pokémon GO 2021 survey

In case you didn’t notice, we shared the following survey on social media:

Hundreds of trainers participated and shared their thoughts, and on behalf of the Pokémon GO Hub team all I can say is thank you! Now it’s time to see the results of the survey.

Pokémon GO playstyles

As most of you may know, one of the best aspects of Pokémon GO is that there is no “right way” to play it. There are plenty of things you can do, a plethora of badges and challenges to focus on, and many different species to collect and power up.

That’s why we asked you: what drives your Pokémon GO gameplay?

Q1: What drives your Pokémon GO gameplay?

Not surprisingly, shiny hunting is the category with the most votes, followed by casual grinding and completionism. Pokémon has always been a game focused on catching different species and completing the Pokédex, so these results probably make sense.

PvP has been rising in popularity despite its obvious flaws and glitches, and is one of the most important features in the game. In fact, the first Pokémon GO World Championship will take place in 2022.

Raiding has always been one of the best features in Pokémon GO, but the lack of exciting raid bosses and new raiding mechanics has probably been one of the main aspects why it wasn’t chosen among the top options.

AR and battling Team GO Rocket are not shown in the chart above but they were also included in the survey. Pokémon GO is an AR game after all, and in fact most new updates in 2021 were focused on that aspect. However, people don’t seem to enjoy this core aspect of the game as much as the other features listed.

Community Days

Community Days are one of the best updates we’ve had in Pokémon GO. However, they don’t seem to be as exciting as they were in the past.

Best Community Day in 2021

The second question we asked you was: which has been the BEST Community Day in 2021?

Q2: which has been the BEST Community Day in 2021?

Are you surprised by the results shown above? Gible was BY FAR the option with the most votes, which makes sense as Garchomp is an all-time favourite Pokémon for many trainers. On top of that, Earth Power Garchomp is in fact the best ground type attacker in the game. The last PvE meta-shaking CD Pokémon before EP Garchomp was Rock Wrecker Rhyperior back in February 2020, so it makes perfect sense that EP Garchomp was the top choice.

However, according to Niantic, the CD with the most player participation in a single day in 2021 was Eevee (Aug 15th):

Niantic Dev Diaries: CD

So what does this tell us? First of all, Pokémon GO is played by millions of people around the world. Most trainers don’t even have a Twitter or Facebook account, let alone a Reddit account. TheSilphRoad and many other great communities out there are full of dedicated trainers and they’re often not representative of the majority of the playerbase.

Newer trainers and casual grinders did probably have a blast during Eevee CD, as technically Eevee CD was the one featuring the largest amount of “new” shinies, along with the fact that Eevee is also a fan-favourite Pokémon.

Most important aspect of a Community Day

As a follow-up question, we asked you about the most important aspect of a CD.

Q3: what’s the most important aspect about a CD-featured Pokémon?

Yet again, most trainers don’t seem to care as much about the usefulness of a certain Pokémon. The CD-featured mon having a new/cool shiny is all that matters to them.

Upcoming Community Days in 2022

We also asked you which Pokémon you would like to see featured in a Community Day in 2022. You can see some of the top results in the image below.

Q4: which Pokémon would you like to see featured in a CD in 2022?

Deino, Axew, Litwick, Timburr and Riolu were the clear winners, which makes perfect sense as most of them have great shinies and PvE/PvP relevance.

Q4 results in %

This was an open-space question where you could write anything you wanted. I took the time to analyse some of the unique responses and two of them deserve to be at least mentioned in this article:

  • Some trainers are fed up with PvP-focused Community Days, which kind of makes sense because the balance between PvP and PvE CDs has been broken for quite some time but it’s always important to remember that very few Pokémon have the chance to shake the PvE meta 
  • Some trainers don’t want top-tier Pokémon like the ones listed above being featured in a Community Day, as they want these kinds of Pokémon to be hard to get (or at least their shinies)

Best non-ticketed event of 2021

2021 has been an eventful year. But which one was the BEST?

Q5: which was the BEST non-ticketed event in 2021?

While analysing the results, I noticed that most people voted for the Kanto Celebration event, which doesn’t really make sense as it had nothing special… unless people thought this was the Kanto Tour event. So there you go, conclusion #1: trainers thought the Kanto Tour was amazing.

The other results are more in line with what I was expecting. Luminous Legends X was a FANTASTIC event, it had great Pokémon spawning (Dratini, Bagon, Goomy), a new legendary Pokémon (Xerneas) and great quests. The Dragonspiral Descent event also had nice spawns, good quests and the release of Druddigon. So conclusion #2 could be that people like dragons?

The Ultra Unlocks (especially 1 and 3) were also great events, and regarding the Bidoof events I can’t really tell if those were troll responses or not but these events also seemed to be quite popular too!

Q5 results in %

Legendary Pokémon in T5 raids

We’ve had a plethora of T5 raid bosses this year, so we also asked you which legendary Pokémon you’ve raided the most in 2021.

Q6: which Legendary Pokémon have you raided the most in 2021?

Mewtwo, Dialga, Zekrom, Rayquaza… all of them seem to be reasonable choices.

Q6 results in %

I must say I’m a bit surprised by the fact that Mewtwo is #1. Mewtwo is without a doubt one of the best Pokémon in the entire game, but outside of the Kanto Tour event, it hasn’t been available with its signature move (Psystrike). A potential reason for that, aside from the fact that Mewtwo is a fan-favourite Pokémon, is that trainers wanted to farm Candy XL to power up their previously-caught Mewtwo to level 50.

Dialga, Reshiram and Zekrom had their shiny debuts this year and all of them are meta staples so it’s not surprising to see them topping the list as well.

Pokémon GO seasons

Seasons are one of the newest updates to the game. So we couldn’t leave them out of the survey.

Best season so far

Q7: which has been the best Pokémon GO season so far?

Season of Legends and Season of Mischief are tied at #1, with the yet-unfinished Season of Heritage trailing behind.

We’ll see what trainers think next year, but I’d bet that the Season of Heritage might get a bump in popularity after the Johto Tour is over. This season seems to have an intriguing storyline and one of the best bonuses we’ve ever had (at least for L40+ trainers): Guaranteed Candy XL when trading.

Best season-long bonus

That was precisely the next question in the survey: which has been the best season-long bonus so far?

Q8: which has been the best season-long bonus so far?

Not surprisingly, the Guaranteed Candy XL when trading bonus was the most popular choice. Candy XL is one of the most controversial aspects in the game, so that was kind of expected. If you want to read more about the topic, I wrote this article several months ago (prior to the introduction of this particular bonus).

Boosted incense effect while stationary was also a top choice according to our readers, which also seems reasonable due to the current situation. However, I have very bad news as Niantic said that they patched a bug that granted an unintended boost to stationary Incense gameplay during Community Day.

I must say that I forgot to include the Boosted damage in remote raid battles bonus in the survey, as it has been a common bonus in all 5 seasons. But you can imagine that trainers also like it.

Most desired QoL updates

We haven’t seen huge content updates in 2021, that’s a fact. But several QoL updates made our life easier, and that’s something worth mentioning.

So we also decided to ask you: which QoL update would you like to see being implemented in the future?

Q9: most desired QoL updates

The top options are listed in the chart above. The #1 choice was to no surprise long distance (lucky) trades. Trading is one of the core aspects of not just Pokémon GO but the Pokémon franchise itself. We can do a PvP battle vs. a trainer on the other side of the globe, so why can’t we trade Pokémon too?

If regionals are the issue, a VERY simple solution is to not allow regional trades if both trainers are 100+ meters away. I know for a fact that plenty of trainers have lots of lucky friends overseas, but what’s the point if they can’t trade Pokémon with them?

Pokémon trades

Trailing behind we have one of the most desired QoL updates of all time: a ready-up button for raids, at least in private lobbies. Just take a look at your raiding badges, and consider that most of the time you’ve spent ~100 seconds in each lobby. Multiply these numbers and convert them to hours (or days!) and you’ll see the huge amount of time you’ve had to waste waiting in raid lobbies.

Another common choice is shorter animations. Trading a Pokémon takes about 25 seconds, multiply that times 100 and you’ll see how much time you have to spend watching the same animation over and over and over and over and over again. The same happens with the gift-sending process, it’s extremely slow and tedious. How hard can it be to just allow us to multi-select 20+ trainers and send them 20+ gifts at once? Other animations that could be shortened are the Team GO Rocket animations, raid animations and gift opening animations.

Bottle Caps have also been requested for a long time. They’re IV boosting items that could potentially turn some of your 14/15/15 Pokémon into hundos.

Bottle Caps

Disclosing shiny chances and egg hatching rates would also be a welcome change. “If you’re lucky” is not good enough, as we know for a fact that wild Pokémon can have VERY different shiny rates. For example, a CD-featured mon has a ~1/25 shiny rate during its Community Day, and a full-odds shiny in the wild can have a ~1/512 shiny rate. But BOTH of them are advertised as being catchable “if you’re lucky”. How LUCKY do we have to be, Niantic? That’s what we want to know. Other games do it, why not Pokémon GO?

In fact, this study conducted by TheSilphRoad Research Group even shows that Pokémon within the SAME egg-rarity Tier have DIFFERENT hatching odds. Then, what’s the point of rarity tiers?

Communication and transparency are key aspects and NIA has been getting better at it but it’s still not enough. And disclosing these rates would be a welcome change towards building a better player-company relationship.

I also took the time to analyse open responses and decided to share some of the BEST suggestions:

  • Lure Module timer on top of a Pokéstop or at least visible once you tap on the stop
  • Raid-lobby counter for active raids that you can see from the map showing how many trainers are inside a lobby
  • Ability to transfer shiny and lucky Pokémon with the expanded group transfer setting
  • In-game medals for gold gyms and excellent throws
  • Ability to see more than 1000+ gyms in the gym map as remote raiding has made some trainers lose track of some of their gold gyms
  • More trainer customization
  • A way to communicate with other trainers, even with premade sentences
  • A trade counter to know how many trades you’ve remaining every day
  • A buddy heart counter to know how many friendship hearts you need until reaching the best buddy status
  • A way to claim friendship XP whenever you want, or at least for a limited amount of time. Otherwise trainers hold the last gift for ages as there is no way to coordinate
  • Global Wonder Trades
  • Ability to delete a limited number of eggs
  • Introduction of the shiny charm (higher shiny chance)
  • Breeding
  • A way to get XL Rare Candies

Pokémon GO playtime

Another question that we asked is: in comparison with 2020, have you played MORE or have you played LESS?

Q10: have you played MORE or LESS than in 2020?

One key aspect to consider is the fact that the situation, while still not under control, has gotten better this year.

Pokémon GO is a game that focuses on outdoor gameplay, so it makes sense to see that trainers have played more than in 2020.

Trainer level distribution

A very important aspect to analyse correlations and what kind of player was participating the survey is the trainer level of the participants.

Q11: what’s your trainer level?

As you can see, most trainers that participated in the survey are dedicated L40+ trainers. This fact alone should tell you that some of the answers might not be representative of the majority of the playerbase. Pokémon GO is played by millions of trainers around the world, and those who share their thoughts on TSR, Twitter and this kind of platforms are just the minority.

New features in 2021

Most new features in 2021 were AR-focused: Pokéstop scanning and the ability to power-up Pokéstops, for example.

Power-up Pokéstops in Pokémon GO

While it is perfectly fine to see this kind of updates to one of the core aspects of the game, players often feel left out as this is one of the features they just turn off once and never bother to use again unless it’s strictly necessary.

Postcards in Pokémon GO

Postcards and new stickers are also nice small updates but nothing major. Same with the small QoL updates we’ve seen in 2021. These updates are great, but nothing that can be compared with raids, a gym rework, quests, Team GO Rocket and all that stuff. The game needs a major shakeup, as well as some fixes to the PvP combat system.

Current state of the game

Rating the current state of the game is one of the questions I wish I had added to the survey. Best I could do after analysing the survey results was to at least create a Twitter poll:

With over 100+ votes, the current results are:

  • Excellent: 4% 
  • Good: 26%
  • Meh: 54%
  • Terrible: 16%

So overall, people seem to be a bit disappointed with the current state of the game. The root cause seems to be the lack of new content updates, the current state of the competitive/PvP scene and its major bugs, glitches and lag, and the amount of time needed to do daily tasks such as sending gifts.

As a battler myself, PvP is one of the most important aspects of the game. Last season, I was able to reach the legend rank in GBL but there were plenty of times where I was about to give up after a bad set due to the lag I faced, the occasional app crash at the beginning of a game and worst of all, the constant issues with fast move desync and sneak ins despite timing my charge moves correctly.

I know how bad it feels when you spend 1 hour to climb 50-60 points and then you wipe all your progress in just 1 bad set due to lag and server issues. So I hope these issues receive the priority they deserve. In fact, there were some traces of a PvP refactoring/re-write in the v.0.225.0 APK teardown. Fingers crossed this is the fix we’ve been waiting for!

Parting Words

Phew! That took a while to write!

I hope you liked the article and the analysis, but if you think I’ve missed something please let me know in the comments section down below or tag me on Twitter. As always, constructive feedback is more than welcome!

Happy new year trainers, and best wishes for 2022!


Author & tags

Pokémon fan since 2000. Played every single game without exception. I'm an engineer, a tech lover and also a big sports fan. Science is my religion :)

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