Happy birthday Pokemon Go: A year by year comparison of the mobile game

Paul Cot

Pokemon Go is four years old! We look back at how the game has evolved over time by having a look at what it looked like on each of its previous birthdays.

Even in the illustrious history of the franchise, no game quite had the hype before release that Pokemon Go did. The 2016 game was arguably the pioneer of the new augmented reality genre.

It had a lot to live up to and in the most it met the high expectations fans thrusted upon it. Perhaps even more impressive than the game itself, has been the longevity it has possessed, with trainers in their millions still logging in to catch ‘mons on a regular basis.

Basic beginnings

It’s hard to imagine now that Pokemon Go has an array of features but upon release Raid Battles didn’t even exist! Instead you merely had the ability to catch Pokemon and battle in gyms.

With the ability to walk around an encounter all your old Pokemon favorites though, this wasn’t a problem. Trainers were more than excited to go out in real life and encounter ‘mons to fill up their Pokedex.

Also, at that stage there were only Gen 1 species to contend with. Not even including the likes of Ditto and Mewtwo, who came later on.

1st birthday

Unbeknown to western Pokemon trainers, Pokemon Go didn’t release worldwide in July of 2016. A lot of African countries had to wait until October 2016 to get their hands on the mobile game.

Other countries had to wait even longer. A lot of Middle Eastern countries got it a month later in November with east Asian countries, most notably India, getting it in December. Interestingly South Korea wouldn’t get the game until January of 2017!

By the time Pokemon Go became one year old, in-game events had become more common. The Eggstravaganza, Adventure Week and Solstice events were just a few to feature for the first time.

The biggest changes in the first year included the addition of Raid Battles. These were introduced in late June, just before Pokemon Go turned one. Elsewhere, Gen 2 species were added in February of 2017.

2nd birthday

With catching Pokemon, gyms and Raid Battles all in place, Pokemon Go continued to excel. Within a year of Raid Battles being released, all of Mewtwo, Lugia, Ho-Oh, Kyogre, Groudon and Regice had all featured at some point.

Events had also increased in regularity giving trainers further incentive to play because of various bonuses. Perhaps the most notable addition for the second year though was Community Days.

These are now a big part of the Pokemon Go schedule and it all kicked off with, surprise surprise, Pikachu in January 2018. For a three-hour period, the headlining Pokemon would spawn in abundance allowing trainers to catch as many as they can. Shiny variants of these species were also released at this time.

Subsequent Community Day headliners included Dratini, Bulbasaur, Mareep, Charmander and Larvitar. The latter has gone full circle as it is now featured as the July Research Breakthrough encounter, something which has received mix reactions among the trainers.

3rd birthday

The popularity of Pokemon Go didn’t seem to wain in its fourth year but in truth, Niantic didn’t really add anything that massive. Celebi was added via Special Research and as part of the Pokemon Go Let’s Go release, and Meltan was announced as the mystery new Mythical Pokemon.

Trainers were always excited about a new generation coming but Gen 4 due to its fan favorite status seemed to be extra anticipated. This of course brought the super-powerful Dialga, Palkia and Giratina forms – all of which would play an integral role in PvP.

One feature that was added was GO Snapshot. This allowed trainers to take pictures of their Pokemon and even unlock special species such as Smeargle.

GO Battle League Mode
GO Battle League is arguably the biggest addition to Pokemon Go to date…

4th birthday

If the previous year was quiet in terms of new features being added, the latest year certainly hasn’t been. The fifth year of Pokemon Go got off to a quick start with the introduction of Team Rocket.

It took them a long time, but they finally had a plan ready to invade the Pokemon Go world. It started off with battling Grunts, and saving Shadow Pokemon in the process, before Team GO Rocket leaders were introduced which naturally led to a battle with the big boss man himself, Giovanni. In recent months Team Rocket has been quiet, but we know they are making a no doubt devious return soon.

Elsewhere, Pokemon Go’s new competitive PvP format was also released. GO Battle League is a competitive version of Trainer Battles were players compete against each other of the same rank.

The new mode changed how trainers caught Pokemon whereby they didn’t need to just worry about how they performed in gyms or Raid Battles. High CP becomes less of a consideration as well due to the limits imposed by the Great, Ultra and Master Leagues.

It’s amazing to think Pokemon Go is now more than four years old. What’s more astounding is the longevity the game has shown, too.

No doubt, It will be fascinating to see what else Niantic has in store for Pokemon Go in 2020 and beyond.