How to fix the developing Pokemon Go Research Breakthrough reward issue

by Paul Cotton
Pokemon Company


Following the apparent removal of legendary Pokemon from the Research Breakthrough encounter rewards in, Niantic find themselves in a tough spot. Here's how they can adjust the weekly Pokemon Go Field Research rewards to make up for it.

Legendary Pokemon had been a staple of the Research Breakthrough rewards ever since they were introduced in April 2018. That was until the latter half of 2019 when Niantic started experimenting with non-legends.

Woobat sign of things to come

It started when little old Flower Crown Eevee replaced a pool Latias, Latios, Kyogre and Groudon – quite the step down. The following pool (November and December 2019) did see the return of some legends, and it was quite a list – Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and once again, Kyogre and Groudon.

Legendary Research Breakthrough Lugia Articuno Zapdos Moltres
The likes of Lugia, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres as Breakthrough rewards seem to be a thing of the past...


However, it seems the outlier of Eevee wasn't a one-off at all. Lapras, albeit with two exclusive powerful moves, kicked off 2020.

Interestingly, the ice-type Kanto Pokemon only stuck around for a month, in comparison to the usual two months the reward pool lasts for. Fast forward to now and trainers can earn Gen 5's Woobat. While some trainers have no issue with this, there's no doubt that Woobat and co are far less exciting than the array of legends we have seen so far.

Why remove Legendary Pokemon?

It begs the question why have Niantic opted to take away these legendary Pokemon rewards now? There's no official answer to this but we certainly speculate as to why.


The first reason they could have been removed is that they were becoming no longer 'legendary'. When every Pokemon Go player has a particular species, there isn't a lot that's legendary about it.

It would be different if it were like Mew where, despite a lot of trainers having it, you still had to put in a lot of work to get it. The legendary Pokemon, on the other hand, were given out just for completing seven relatively menial field research tasks.

Whether it was yourself or a friend, we've probably all been guilty of even transferring one or two of them out. After all, having four or more of the same Pokemon isn't worthwhile, and that wherein lies the problem.


An alternative, more business-driven reason behind the legendary Pokemon being cut back on is Niantic want to encourage Pokemon Go players to participate in Raid Battles. If legendary Pokemon are being given out willy-nilly then trainers have a lot less of an incentive to compete in Raids.

This isn't ideal for Niantic as a lot of money is spent on the Premium Raid Pass. Sure, you can battle in Raids for free, but there are also a lot of players that want to play them a lot more than once a day.

It's possible a flaw was seen in their business strategy regarding legendary Pokemon and raids, and they made a very conscious decision to remove legendary Pokemon from the Research Breakthrough encounter reward pool altogether.

Woobat Reward
Woobat Reward
Woobat is the current (February) Research Breakthrough reward...


Is there a compromise where legendary Pokemon can return?

Even those most upset by the new Research Breakthrough encounters can probably admit that the legendary Pokemon came too cheaply. The thrill of getting them is taken away when they become too common.

So, their removal seems more than a reasonable decision. That doesn't mean the system can't be changed to reintroduce them, though.

Most agree earning an encounter with a legend after receiving seven stamps is too easy. Instead, you could encounter a legendary species after earning 30 stamps. This could even be 30 in a row and would keep trainers engaged every day.

An alternative could be to introduce another monthly special research quest. This could be similar to how encountering Team Rocket's Giovanni works.

Another more left-field method could be to re-add legendary Pokemon but make them ultra-difficult to catch. Premier Balls could be used so you have a limit on how many attempts you have to catch it. There's a variety of ways this could play out but they could make it so a 'Great' Curveball throw is the minimum need to catch it.

Unfortunately, it does look like legendary Research Breakthrough encounters are a thing of the past in Pokemon Go. Who knows though, maybe Niantic are working on something and they will return one day.