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Pokémon Go is seven years old today… And I'm playing it for the first time…

In time for Pokémon Go’s seventh anniversary I finally give it a try and discover a game that prioritises mobile gaming perfectly
Pokémon Go is seven years old today… And I'm playing it for the first time…

Today, July 6, 2023, marks seven years of Niantic’s Pokémon Go - one of the most well-known mobile games of all time and a pioneer of the augmented reality space.

With billions in lifetime earnings and having been a worldwide phenomenon back in that fateful summer of 2016, everyone and their dog has played the game at some point.

I hadn’t.

Being a Pokémon fan who kept up with the yearly main series games, the species available in Go at launch didn’t excite me - they were so prevalent in the console games that I didn’t feel any exigency to catch them all… again. However, the original Generation at launch was clearly the right way to go for public appeal, as Go added a massive $8 billion to Nintendo's value over its first weekend.

What changed...

Pokémon Go isn’t the only mobile game to come out of the franchise; Pokémon Home is a mobile app that can connect to Nintendo Switch titles and Pokémon Go, and it contains within it the only up-to-date National Pokédex, freely available to fill with every species: a true embodiment of "Gotta catch ‘em all".

Of all things, it’s Home that has got me playing Go… nearly seven years later.

With a goal of eventually completing the National Pokédex myself, I’ve been casually catching ‘em through the years and have 603 of the 1010 current species registered so far; not especially impressive, but not bad for a laidback quest without any trading or transferring from the 3DS.

Pokémon registered in my Home account
Pokémon registered in my Home account

Of course, The Pokémon Company makes it harder to complete the Dex by making some species simply impossible to catch unless you buy each version of each game and all the DLC… That’s where Go comes in.

Because fast forward to today and Go has implemented a vast range of creatures to collect - many of whom are much more accessible on mobile. Their introduction to Go is an incredibly smart business strategy on The Pokémon Company’s part, encouraging people to play the mobile game and ultimately spend even more money on the franchise.

If that weren’t enough, downloading Home and connecting to Switch games unlocks rare Pokémon with Hidden Abilities you can’t find anywhere else - a clear push to integrate players into the mobile realm. And while you’re already installing Pokémon apps, why not get Go…?

1 week of Go

I first installed Pokémon Go a week ago, just before the seventh anniversary to get acclimatised before any big celebrations, and was thrilled to find a Litten on my first day - the fire kitten from the 3DS era who outright can’t be found in the wilds on Switch. One more for the Dex.

Litten in Pokémon Go
Litten in Pokémon Go

The next thing I know, I’m out the house and hunting down other Alolan Pokémon I hadn’t seen since the pre-Switch days, like the woodpecker Pikipek. This has all but confirmed Pokémon’s strategy to me. In the modern age, mobile is a must; if you want to complete your Pokémon collection, The Pokémon Company will point you towards your phone, not to the Switch.

Through playing Go, I soon discovered Raid Dens with yet more rare species, but these can’t just be caught – you must do battle. As of right now my Pokémon are far from strong enough to take these battles on and must first be made more powerful (my strongest so far is a 1215 CP Charizard), evidencing that The Pokémon Company and Niantic encourage investing in Go as a full game, not just a collection point.

While the Pokémon Go Plus + hardware is beyond my personal needs, the Poké Ball-like item is yet another example of the company’s full-force integration into society, aiming to keep Pokémon on you at all times. If they weren’t such beloved creatures, the prospect would be almost frightening...

And people really do play a lot; Go is now available in more than 150 countries around the world, and Niantic revealed this week that more than 600 billion Pokémon have been caught collectively. As for my contribution to the ever-increasing total, I suspect I’ll be catching my fair share through the anniversary, with different rare species promised each day.

Looks like Go just earned another player…