It leaked a while ago, it's been rumored for longer than that, and it's been necessary even longer than that, but late is better than never. Pokémon GO is finally getting a rudimentary single-player quest system, Niantic revealed today. It's called "Research," and it's no less exciting for looking a whole lot like the sort of daily and weekly quests of nearly every games-as-service title on the market. You complete tasks, you fill up progress bars, you get rewards: these are the meat and potatoes of any game like this. Crucially, these quests will come in two flavors: Field Research and Special Research. Field Research is the day-to-day grind, whereas Special Research consists of story quests, the first of which will guide the player towards eventually capturing the mythic Pokémon Mew. And that will make Mew one of the only non-random rewards in the game.
When it comes to actually playing this game, it's clearly the biggest feature since Raids. It gives Pokémon GO something it's almost entirely lacked since launch: structure. Right now, the game is currently almost entirely reliant on self-directed goals like leveling up, filling the Pokédex or preparing tricked-out counter teams for fighting Raid battles. That doesn't have to be a problem, but the combination of self-directed goals and shallow gameplay means that it's easy to feel aimless even after playing the game for a few weeks. Most games mitigate that feeling by providing some goals of their own in form of quests, and Pokémon GO has needed them since day one. We're now nearly two years into the game, but a little structure is as welcome now as it was back then.
The tiny bit of structure the game has now does keep me signing in: I show up to get new Legendaries when they arrive, I try to capture new Pokémon as they're released and I show up for most of the in-game events. But a well-implemented quest system can be enough to give you an excuse to play every day, not just every week or month. And that's all I, and I assume many other players, are looking for here: an excuse. I love Pokémon GO and I want to play it: it can just be exhausting to do so when I'm clearly accomplishing nothing. I really just need a little push, and hopefully that's what quests can provide.
The EX Raid system by which trainers can get their only crack at the high-powered Mewtwo feels like the nadir of Pokémon GO's design. It's capricious, opaque and frustrating, locking the game's best rewards away behind a random number generator that's annoying even when working as intended. It's near-impossible for rural players to use and features a dozen or so conveniently located points of possible failure. And while we'll reserve judgement until we've actually seen this in action, genuine quests have the chance to be the opposite: reliable, achievable goals with desirable rewards, something to let you feel like you're making progress even when the fourth Kyogre in a row runs away from you.
While I still love Pokémon GO, developments like this have me even more excited for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Pokémon GO is a mature game by this point, and it's never going to see the same sort of crowds that it saw at launch. A new game that learns from its mistakes, however, has the potential to be far more successful in the long run. I don't have much faith that competitors are going to be able to beat Niantic without the developer's database of Pokéstops -- or Ingress Portals, or whatever they will be in the Wizarding World -- and so that means that fans of this genre are more or less reliant on this one developer.