There's an Alleged Glitch in Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go might have its most frustrating glitch yet…if anyone can prove whether or not it’s real. Players have supposedly discovered that it’s impossible to catch a Raid Boss when a player has just one Premier Ball left, regardless how many bonuses they stack. Although plenty of players have come forward to disprove the glitch, there’s only one problem….no one has hard evidence disproving it.

Theories about the “last ball glitch” have been around for weeks, although it only recently picked up steam after a Redditor posted multiple videos of failed Magikarp Raid Boss catches…even though Magikarp should have a success rate close to 100% when stacked with a Golden Razz Berry, curveball bonus, and an accurate throw bonus.

So, is the “last ball glitch” real? Well….we don’t think so, but there’s certainly a lot evidence supporting both sides of the argument.



What Exactly Is The Glitch?

There are a few hypotheses as to why the “last ball glitch” (if real) is happening. Some think that it’s caused by a discrepancy in how the game’s servers counts balls. Others think that it’s tied to the programming that automatically transitions the game away from the catch screen when you run out of PokeBalls.

Part of the reason the glitch is so believable is that Legendary Raids have a relatively low success record AND because Pokemon Go is so glitchy. If a player runs through multiple Legendary Raids without catching a single Pokemon, they might start wondering why they keep coming up short. Because the game has had so many problems over the last year, it’s not exactly implausible to blame that repeated failure on a bug as opposed to just bad luck. 

“Last ball glitch” theorists even have an explanation as to why so many players (myself included) swear they’ve caught a Raid Boss with their last Poke Ball. The theory is that any successful catch is actually a “critical catch,” a special type of catch symbolized with a single shake and then a special animation. We still don’t know how Pokemon Go determines critical catches, so players think that the critical catch mechanic somehow overrides the “last ball glitch,” resulting in the anecdotal evidence refuting the “last ball glitch.”


Probability Explained

One of the reasons this glitch theory is picking up steam is confusion as to how probability and statistics work in Pokemon Go. When players calculate the probability of successfully catching a Legendary Pokemon, they look at two different sets of statistics. The first statistic is the success rate for a single trial, while the second stat uses binomial distribution to figure out the cumulative probability of a series of identical throws.

For example, when a player hits a Lugia with a single Premier Ball with no bonuses, they have a 2% success rate. When a player hits Lugia with a series of 10 Premier Balls, the cumulative probability that one of those throws is successful is about 18%.

The confusion comes from thinking that each successive throw increases the probability of success. If I throw nine Premier Balls at a Lugia and none of them capture it, the tenth ball won’t have a higher success rate than the previous throws. It still has a 2% chance of success…even though the “cumulative probability” of all those throws is significantly higher.

It’s like flipping a coin four times and it landing heads up all four times. The fifth time you toss a coin, the probability of it landing heads up is still 50/50, regardless of what happened before.



Catch and Miss Graphics

The other reason why the “last throw glitch” rumors are growing louder is that a failed “last throw” always has the same animation. The Premier Ball will hit the Pokemon, drop on the ground, and then pop open again after about a half shake.

While researching this glitch, I watched dozens of videos of failed last catches and every one had the exact same animation. As best I can figure, Pokemon Go uses the same animation to trigger a failed Bonus Challenge. Since the Raid Boss automatically flees once a player runs out of Premier Balls, Pokemon Go just uses the same animation to transition away from the catch screen every single time.

The “Proof”

The most convincing evidence that the “last ball glitch” exists is the lack of video evidence refuting it. I personally reviewed at least 50 YouTube videos and couldn’t find a single successful example of a player catching a Raid Boss (Legendary or otherwise) on the last throw. Meanwhile, there’s a growing number of Magikarp Raid videos that end with Magikarp escaping…even though Magikarp’s base capture rate is at 57%. There’s only a 1% chance that a Magikarp would escape from five consecutive PokeBall throws, and that’s without factoring in any potential bonuses.

But lack of video evidence isn’t definitive proof that the glitch exists. There’s only a handful of Pokemon Go players who record themselves playing the game, and even fewer who are actively looking for scenarios to either prove or dispute the glitch’s existence. And even if there’s 100 YouTube videos that don’t show a successful catch, that’s barely enough of a sample size to definitively prove that there’s a problem.

There’s also the possibility that there is a last throw bug that only triggers under specific circumstances. Maybe it happens against Magikarp only, or maybe it only happens when a player gets a specific type of bonus. Or maybe players are accidentally getting softbanned for some reason, which means that they wouldn’t have a chance of capturing a Raid Boss no matter how many PokeBalls they threw at it.


Urban Legend or Real?

Right now, the “last ball glitch” is just a theory, albeit a very convincing one. It could turn out to be real, or it could turn out to be an urban legend like Mew supposedly existing underneath a truck in Vermillion City in Pokemon Red and Blue.

Because so much of Pokemon Go is tied to players discovering answers on their own, it could be a while before we really get an answer. Until either Niantic comments on the glitch, or there’s hard video evidence refuting this theory once and for all, people are going to keep claiming that the “last ball glitch” is real, even though just as many people will say that they’ve seen a Raid Boss get caught on the last ball!

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