When Pokémon GO first came out, I walked around my neighbourhood, phone conspicuously in hand, hunting for Pokémon just like everyone else. But other than the occasional IRL conversation with players on the street, “I just saw a Jigglypuff in front of that cafe back there!”, I quickly became frustrated by its lack of social gaming. I wanted to be able to share resources and trade pokémon (I have so many doubles!), and I wanted to view other people’s finds and battle stats.
Niantic’s latest update for the mobile AR game, Pokémon Go Trading, was released on June 22 and has added the long-requested social aspect. You can now use Trainer Codes to add people to your friends list. Pokéstops now drop gifts that are only for gifting to friends, which include eggs that can hatch into pokémons’ Alola forms. You can finally trade pokémon with other trainers!
But all this trading and gifting isn’t as straightforward as I’d wished. First, you can only trade with people who are physically within 100 m of your location. This dashes my dreams of sending some surplus pokémon to my brother in Halifax. In fact, since I don’t have any friends IRL who also play, this means I may never get the opportunity to trade pokémon with someone. I have lots of friends from Trainer Code threads in gamer forums, but the location restriction means I can’t trade with any of them.
Then there’s the trading system itself, set up to prevent a pokémon black market. Trading costs stardust: 100 stardust for a regular trade or 20,000 for a legendary or shiny pokémon. However, these costs are only for trades of pokémon already in your Pokédex; trading for new pokémon starts at 20,000 and goes up to 100,000 for legendary or shiny pokémon. For me, getting pokémon that are new to me is the whole point of trading; I don’t need a tenth Nidoran. Your friendship level can provide a discount to the cost of trade though, adding another layer of complexity to the exchange. But it also encourages maintaining high friendship levels as a priority, as the discount for Ultra and Best Friend level can bring the cost well below even that of a registered regular trade.
It’ll be interesting to see how these new features shape gameplay, how it’s shaped by the players, and also if it has any affect on the built-in social and trading elements already announced for Pokémon Let’s Go!, which will be released for the Switch this November.