Pokémon GO seems to be stepping up its event game. Previously, the monster-catching mobile game has focused on virtual events that are the same no matter where you are in the world, but this summer the developer is tapping into real-world, location-based festivals that change the game for players in a particular place — an appropriate pursuit for a title that’s defined by its relationship to reality. The biggest of these is Pokémon GO Fest, a big party in Chicago where trainers will participate in special challenges that will unlock global rewards. Just as interesting, however, are a series of European events at Unibail-Rodamco shopping centers that seem to promise some previously unattainable rewards.
From the beginning of this game, completing the Pokédex has required a certain degree of travel. Certain Pokémon are region-locked, meaning that you’re only going to find a Farfetch’d in Asia, you’re only going to find a Tauros in North America, you’re only going to find a Mr. Mime in Europe, etc. Region-locked Pokémon meant that anyone who didn’t get on a plane couldn’t quite finish the non-legendary Pokédex, and it was generally considered an apex achievement to say that you had finished “the North American Pokédex,” or whatever Pokédex you happened to be working with. The best place to easily complete the ‘dex, I suppose would be somewhere in Central Asia.
It appears that Niantic is going to loosen that up a bit with these “Safari Zone” events, which promise that trainers will be able to snag Pokémon previously unavailable in Europe, and that reads as a pretty clear indication that region exclusives from other regions are going to be available for the first time. It’s nice to hear, because while I do like the ceremony that surrounds the concept of region-exclusive Pokémon, those big empty places in the Pokédex can get a bit much, especially when you’re getting close to completing the Pokédex writ large and realizing you have little else to do with this game. Most importantly, it gives a nice way to make events like these genuinely unique, and we’ve been wondering how the developer would do that since they were first announced. Niantic also promises “unique raid bosses,” though as usual, the developer steers clear of a word like “legendary.”
What’s unclear is whether or not events like this will eventually make their way to other regions, but it seems like a pretty safe bet, at least if the European events go well. We’ve heard nothing about region-exclusive Pokémon at Pokémon Go Fest, but it’s possible they’ll be making an appearance in Chicago as well. It will be interesting to watch the real-world event side of this game evolve — developer Niantic has been doing it for a while with its other game, Ingress, but the scale of Pokémon GO raises all sorts of different considerations. We’ll find out soon.