Pokemon GO’s Water Festival was a surprise for the game. In the past, all in-game events have been tied to real-world holidays, both as standard operating procedure for MMOs and as a handy extension of the game’s augmented reality premise.
The Water Festival, however, came out of left field — announced on the same day it started, not tied to any real holiday and, I would argue, a handy little success. It allowed players to quest after a few sought after Pokemon, gave endgame players something to do by tracking down golden Magikarp and offered a moment’s punctuation for other players.
The way forward is pretty obvious here: since time immemorial, Pokemon games have offered players a choice between three starters at the outset of the game: fire, grass and water, typified by the Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle of Red/Blue.
So if we’ve already seen a Water Festival for one of those starters, it stands to reason that we’ll see one for Grass and Fire as well. These might not happen right away — Easter or April Fools is likely next on the docket — but they’d be ideal ways to fill later lulls in the calendar.
The best events in Pokemon GO, in my opinion, are the ones that seem to make a genuine change to the feeling a player gets walking outside of the house. The game’s first event, for Halloween last year, remains one of the best examples of this: it promised more “spooky” Pokemon, and basically flooded the world with Haunter and the occasional Cubone.
It worked pretty well, mostly because Haunter has a distinctive aesthetic separate from the original 151. During the time when the event was active, the game world — and by extension parts of the real world — felt just a bit spookier. It’s the power of Pokemon GO’s augmented reality at work, and it’s why these events are such a draw for the game. If Pokemon GO reinvented the world around you the first time you played it, a ghost-filled event allows it to do it again.
The Water Festival, even if it didn’t have any increased rewards, filled this requirement handily while providing a blueprint for other game events not tied to major holidays. It’s a good move for a game that can feel dull in between its punctuation: the prospect of surprise events keeps players on their toes.