Pokémon GO just announced the largest feature update to the game in its one year history, a massive rework to gyms worldwide, and the introduction of “raid boss” Pokémon that will temporarily take over gyms and challenge groups of players to defeat and capture them.
And yet, there was one word conspicuously not found in the entirety of Pokémon GO’s big gym/raid announcement: “Legendary.” It’s long been an open secret that Pokémon GO is planning to introduce Legendary Pokémon this summer, and I believe at this point, Niantic employees have even said that outright a few times. And as this update arrives, we are clearly witnessing the delivery mechanism for these Legendaries in the form of raids.
I mean, come on, you’re telling me that Niantic isn’t going to use the raid system, which features players banding together to battle 25,000 CP monsters with a chance to capture them, to introduce Legendary Pokémon? It’s kind of the best of all possible worlds when it comes to a Legendary rollout.
These gym events will be widespread enough so that almost any player will be able to attempt the, but hard enough where they’re going to be a real point of pride when the Pokémon are captured. And the entire thing still has the vibe of that first trailer that had players banding together to battle a Mewtwo in Times Square. It’s seemingly perfect, and frankly impossible to believe that this isn’t how Legendaries will enter the game.
And yet, here we are. Niantic has written and spoken extensively about pretty much every aspect of this update, yet it’s not said once that Legendary Pokémon are entering the game in short order. What’s going on?
I have a few theories here as to why this actually makes some amount of sense.
Niantic has stated that while the gym rework is immediate, raids will launch over the coming weeks in a few select cities before a wider rollout.
This being the case means that opening up raids with Legendaries right at launch is a non-starter for a number of reasons. First of all, it would be exclusionary if only a handful of cities got access to Legendaries during what’s essentially a beta test. But more than that, this limited rollout allows Niantic to test both the balance of this activity, whether it’s too hard or too easy, and check out potential security issues as well, as in whether or not spoofers will find some way to invade raids and scoop up the bosses through some sort of unforeseeable exploit.
Therefore, limiting these raid bosses to be powerful Pokémon that are already in the game, Tyranitar, Gengar, Alakazam, Dragonite, Gyarados, etc, is the safe, logical movie. Niantic absolutely needs to make sure that the system works and works well before dumping the missing 11 Legendaries into the game. It would be an utter disaster if the Legendary rollout was plagued by bugs or if the Pokémon were snatched up en masse by hackers somehow.
That doesn’t fully explain why they won’t mention Legendaries at all, but I think the second half of this is more of marketing issue. While it seems likely that after several weeks of testing, Legendaries will be introduced into the game, Niantic is going to want to do so with a lot of fanfare.
My theory? Niantic is planning both a local and global “unlock” component to Pokémon GO Fest based on some rather cryptic messaging about the event. First, on Twitter:
“Stay tuned for how to participate in Pokémon GO Fest together with Trainers around the world.”
And then on the official Pokémon GO Fest website:”
“Work together with thousands of Trainers in the park and millions around the world to complete challenges throughout the day and unlock amazing in-game rewards globally. More details about these challenges and rewards will be revealed in the coming weeks.”
To me, “unlock amazing in-game rewards globally” could easily be some sort of collective activity, ie. everyone in the park has to defeat the gym raid bosses X number of times to unlock Legendaries worldwide, and the global population doing something similar adds to that in some way. If this were me, and this were technically possible, I’d have each of the eleven missing Legendary/Mythic Pokémon show up in Chicago during the event throughout the day, and each time one was defeated, it would be unlocked globally. Chicago would get first crack (and only a scarce handful of people would actually catch these things, if the mechanics are to be believed), but then the rest of the world would immediately get their chance as well with each of them released into the wild. That may be overly elaborate, but it’s how I would design it.
The timing at least checks out. Let’s say testing for raids begins in two weeks in select cities. That leaves three more weeks to work the bugs out ahead of Chicago, and as we’ve already established, there needs to be at least that amount of testing for Legendaries to launch. Any sooner than that runs the risk of serious issues, any later and summer is practically over and a huge event like GO Fest passes without a Legendary launch, which would be just plain bizarre.
Maybe the Legendary launch and GO Fest will be entirely separate, but the hints are there that might not be the case, and looking at the calendar, I think this makes a lot of sense. Perhaps Niantic will start talking soon, but for now, “Legendary” is still not in their vocabulary.