Yesterday, Pokémon GO had another update, this time reinserting the “place of capture” geographic data into the game, something that was stripped out a long while back for server-related reasons that remains somewhat unclear. But many fans were hoping that at long last, Pokémon GO’s new “nearby” tracking system would be added to the game, and yet, still nothing.
While “Sightings” currently exists in the game, a month and a half ago, a new Nearby system was being tested out in San Francisco that was supposed to be the full-on replacement for the 1-2-3 step tracking system the game had at launch. But despite a lengthy test, we’ve heard nothing about Nearby from Niantic, and no indication when or if it might be coming.
But I’m not convinced it’s 100% necessary the way I used to be. Why? Well, mostly because of the new Buddy System.
The new Nearby system being tested in San Francisco ties Pokémon spawns to specific PokéStops. In addition to the “Sightings” feature, which merely pops Pokémon in and out of the list as you walk, so you can loosely track them that way, the new Nearby system specifically tells you that this Pokémon is at one specific PokéStop nearby. If you get there in time, it should be within a pretty close radius to the stop, not quite as a small as lure range, but nearby all the same.
The core problem with this system is that it would skew the feature to directly benefit city players, or those with plentiful PokéStops nearby. Already, rural players have complained about how tough it is to play the game, but tying spawns directly to PokéStops would be a way to make things even more easy for city players, and harder for those out in the country, or in an area that simply doesn’t have nearly enough stops to make trekking to them frequently worthwhile. In Chicago, I can walk two blocks and hit 10 stops in a loop. When I was on a trip in Northern Michigan, it was impressive if an entire town had one PokeStop at a church or post office or something. This system would be hugely beneficial for one group, and terrible for the other.
But what does the Buddy System have to do with any of this?
Previously, I’ve said that one of Pokémon GO’s major problems was the distinct lack of an endgame, and that tracking Pokémon to fill out your Pokédex as a sort of “final goal” was way, way too hard with no effective tracker.
The Buddy System, which allows you to walk specific Pokémon for guaranteed candy, has changed all that. No longer do you need to catch 12 Jigglypuffs to make a Wigglytuff, you just have to walk ~45 km and you’re guaranteed one. I have 90 Geodude candies but I don’t have to flip out about tracking 10 more Geodudes down because if I want to, I can simply walk 30 km.
For “ultra-rare” stuff like Charizard, Venusaur, Blastoise, Dragonite, Gyarados, etc, while obviously it would be nice to encounter any of these in the wild, and a tracking system would help with catching them, again, it’s no longer required because of the Buddy System. In fact, if you’re walking your Squirtles or Magikarps or Dratinis, chances are you will end up evolving a much, much powerful version of the final Pokémon rather than relying on blind luck that the one-in-a-million time you see one in the wild you can A) catch it before it flees and B) its CP is actually good.
So, while tracking is still nice to hunt down stage one Pokémon you’ve never seen (I still need a Grimer, a Porygon, an Omastar), the Buddy System with its long-term ability for candy generation can solve most other Pokédex problems…provided you’re cool with some very long walks.
Now, I certainly wouldn’t say no to a Nearby tracking system that plants rare Pokémon at stops I can easily walk to, as there’s no real downside to that. But I do think it’s a little weird that tracking would become a sort of easy-to-follow treasure map than something that requires any real “hunting” like the old footprint system. And of course, I can see how this would put rural players at an even bigger disadvantage than they already are.
It is a little weird we haven’t heard anything about this tracking system despite the test beginning so long ago, but perhaps Niantic felt that it wasn’t the right fit for the game, and the test revealed that. But I am not nearly as antsy as I once was about Pokémon GO getting a more detailed new tracking system, because the Buddy System has solved many of those sorts of endgame problems. Still, I will be curious to see what’s eventually rolled out to the public all the same.