The current state of the “Pokemon GO Is Not Fair” debate and our opinion

If you haven’t been paying attention to Youtube lately, Trainer Tips published a video titled “Pokémon GO is not fair”, addressing player complaints that Pokemon GO is unfairly giving advantage to players who attend real world events.

Before you read the rest of the article, we suggest you watch the video for yourself. The video should be available on top of the article.

Nick argues that Pokemon GO is not fair in the same sense as life is not fair:

  • Players in urban areas have access to more PokeStops/restaurants, but spend more on living
  • Players that travel spend more, but also experience more

As a result, Nick explains that it’s completely natural to have event exclusive Pokemon, using the Pikachu Outbreak as an example of an event that warrants exclusive experiences and rewards.

The Japanese culture is the birth place of Pokemon and Nick argues that, if anyone, the Japanese should have the right for an incredible real world event.

The aftermath

As you might expect, these statements turned out to be quite controversial and divisive, creating two large Internet factions:

  • the ones who support Nick’s case and argue that Pokemon GO should feature event-exclusives and favor Trainers that travel
  • the ones who don’t support Nick’s case and argue that everything in the game should be equally available for everyone playing it

The divide goes even deeper, spanning multiple opinion and interest groups, roughly clustered around topics like “rural vs urban players”, “we travel, you don’t”, etc..

As of this writing, there are more than 7000 comments on the original “Pokémon GO is not fair.” video, and multiple Youtubers are making responses titled “RE: Pokémon GO is not fair.”.


Our “RE: Pokémon GO is not fair.”

Honestly, we think that the entire “game is not fair” philosophy is misused and comes from having mostly misplaced expectations. Before we continue, let’s state one obvious fact:

In a number of rural areas, Pokemon GO is unplayable for free-to-play Trainers.

Do we think Pokemon GO should have exclusive events in certain cities around the world?

Yes, we do. It’s part of what you expect when you commit to playing a GPS based AR game. The world around you will be used as a map, as a battlefield or as a foundation for the game. This is all normal and expected in this genre – just look at how Ingress events take place.

Do we think those events should feature exclusive rewards?

Yes and no. Yes, the event attendees should be given priority for receiving those rewards. This is also natural and expected – they spent money, time and energy to travel to the event, they should be given an easier path to reward.

However, the event rewards should never be limited to event attendees only. This makes no sense, creates segregation in the community and creates an angry and anxious player base.

Luckily, that wasn’t the case yet.

Do we think that Pokemon GO is a fair game?

In all honesty, we can’t consider Pokemon GO a fair or an unfair game. It’s hardly a game by the conventional game standards. It’s a mobile app that enables you to collect and capture a fixed number of imaginary creatures. You can also battle at certain places, but you can’t fight other players directly.

As a result, Pokemon GO is not a competitive game. There are no ladders, no ranks, no ELO and MMR systems in place. Competing in Pokemon GO is roughly the same thing as competing using Microsoft Excel – you compare arbitrary numerical values such as number of Pokemon caught, or number of Pokedex entries.

Do you think Pokemon GO should be improved in rural areas?

Absolutely yes! If anyone tries to dispute this, we can confidently say that he never tried playing in a rural area. Rural Pokemon GO sucks, you are severely limited and it’s questionable if it’s even possible to play rural and be a free-to-play player.

Conclusion?

The truth is, Pokemon GO will never be “fair”, if you consider “fair” to imply that everyone in the world has the same opportunities in the game. It’s a GPS powered AR game, and no matter what Niantic does, the game will never be balanced completely.

Unfortunately, Pokemon GO will always inherently be an experience powered by real world constraints, such is the nature of AR gaming. With that, you should always expect that there are things you will not be able to do.

The GO Hub team lives in Croatia, which is far from literary everything Pokemon GO related. But we are strong people: we farm our Pidgeys, we pet our Ratatas and we obsess over our Pinsir army.

We even have to deal with stuff like this:

The sign says: “Pokemon are prohibited from entering”

Are we salty that we have to travel to experience something a player from Netherlands experiences on a daily basis? A bit, yes.

Does it bother us so much that we will bring our pitchforks and torches to the next raid? Nope.

But such is life, and such is AR gaming.