A Niantic employee clears up some mysteries about the game.
The initial fervor after Pokémon Go‘s release in 2016 may have died down, but the game has maintained a dedicated legion of fans playing throughout the world thanks to its many events and fun features. And since our Japanese language reporter P.K. Sanjun pretty much plays the game religiously–he even made sure to catch Pokémon while on vacation in New Zealand–he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to interview a Niantic employee about the game, and see what kind of insider tips they could reveal.
He was lucky to meet with Kento Suga, the Pokémon Go Global Marketing Leader for Niantic. With a lofty title like that, you can’t go wrong in thinking that he’s a pretty important person in the grand scheme of things. He’s also been with Niantic since the release of Pokémon Go, so he’s got to know everything there is to know about it.
Ahead of our interview with Mr. Suga, we asked our Japanese Twitter followers what questions they had for a Niantic insider, and got a lot of great responses! P.K. picked 30 of the best questions and tried to clear up some of the mysteries that have been bothering Pokémon Go fans.
Question 1: Does everyone have the same rate of encountering shiny Pokémon?
Suga: No one user has any advantage over any other.
P.K.: Honestly, that’s something I never really doubted —or rather, I figured it was pretty equal. But I do feel like if, for example, someone catches two Ekans or two Koffings at every event, their rates get adjusted.
Suga: There are some deviations, but shiny Pokémon are intended to appear at random, like a natural phenomenon.
P.K.: For me, shiny Psyduck appears randomly but if that randomness is just the way it is, then that makes sense. I guess that’s why there’s the exchange function, to compensate for the randomness.
Question 2: Does the rate of encountering shiny Pokémon change based on a trainer’s level or username?
Suga: It’s the same as the last question. No one user has advantages over any other.
P.K.: That’s what I thought. I think that, just like there are really lucky and really unlucky people in the world, there are people who catch lots of shiny Pokémon, and people who don’t.
Suga: That’s right. Even I have got tons of shiny Beldum, but zero Slakoth.
P.K.: I see. After all, the people who have a lot of shiny Pokémon probably have caught like 200,000 Pokémon total.
Question 3: How will you implement the introduction of shiny region-specific Pokémon?
Suga: I wonder where [the person who asked that question] lives? Shiny region-specifics will appear in the game as you encounter them!
P.K.: Once this is implemented I bet they will be super rare. [Shiny region-specific Pokémon will be implemented sometime this month.]
Question 4: If you keep trading with the same person over and over again, does your chance of getting a Lucky Pokémon decrease?
Suga: I’ll keep some details under wraps, but there aren’t any particular benefits to trading with one trainer over another.
P.K.: I’m not sure I believe you. I’ve traded Pokémon over 8,000 times, but most of it has been with people in my office, and I feel like my rate of acquiring Lucky Pokémon has decreased dramatically. What do you think about that?
Suga: It might be that, in the beginning, you traded many more older Pokémon than you do now.
P.K.: Oh, I don’t remember, but you might be right…
Suga: Pokémon you’ve had in your Pokémon Box for a long time have a higher chance of becoming Lucky Pokémon when traded. Besides that, there are no advantages or disadvantages with regards to specific trainers.
Question 5: Is the chance of your friend becoming a Lucky Friend affected by whether you’re “Best Friends” or not?
Suga: As before, no one user has advantages over any other.
Question 6: If you don’t trade with your friend while they’re a Lucky Friend, does that affect the rate at which your other friends become Lucky Friends?
Suga: Similar to the other questions, no.
Question 7: Are there any plans to increase the limit on special trades from just one per day?
Suga: I can’t speak for the future, but at this point, no.
P.K.: I’d love it if you did! I had an awkward experience, when an acquaintance from my hometown became Lucky Friends with me and my co-worker at the same time. They came all the way up to Tokyo to trade, but could only do one special trade with one of us, and had to do a regular trade with the other. So if possible…
Suga: We at Niantic want users to meet all kinds of people and experience many different kinds of things through Pokémon Go. In this case, we’d be happy if you and your acquaintance were able to meet again.
P.K.: I see…
Suga: However, since we’re expecting trainers from all over the world to gather at the next Pokémon Go Fest, we’re planning to increase that day’s limit on special trades to five times for trainers attending the event. Since there will be people there whom you may only see that one time, we’d like it to be an opportunity for conversation between people.
Suga: When considering the balance of the game, I think it would be pretty hard to increase the limit in general, but we’ll be thinking about what is best going forward.
Question 8: Will we ever be able to trade with friends who live far away?
Suga: Because of the game balance, this, too, would be difficult to implement. After all, it’s our hope that trainers will use Pokémon Go to meet up with each other.
Question 9: Are there any plans to implement a messaging system in the game?
Suga: Not at the moment.
P.K.: But I think for every social network game there are updates that become a game changer. For example, a paid game becomes free, or a life system is abolished. I feel like a messaging system could be that for Pokémon Go.
Suga: But we’re happy with whatever means trainers are using to talk to each other!
Question 10: Are there any plans to expand the limits on how many gifts we can carry?
Suga: The way people use gifts has already exceeded our expectations! Gifts might appear in events in the future. [Shortly after this there was an event involving gifts.]
Question 11: At the moment we can only open 20 gifts per day. Are there any plans to increase that limit?
Suga: As with the last question, we are listening to everyone’s requests concerning gifts. We’re working on making improvements to make them easier to use.
Question 12: Will you ever be adding a function to save special gifts in a collection?
Suga: We’re listening to the people who tell us they’re keeping gifts they’ve collected while on vacation, or that people are selective about the gifts they send to their good friends. Gifts are a special “Social” and “Location Information” function that is very characteristic of Pokémon Go, so we are working on various improvements to them.
Question 13: Are there any plans to update the way Gyms work?
Suga: We are also working on improving the Gym system, so we hope you’ll look forward to the upcoming changes.
Question 14: Are there any plans to increase the daily coin profit from maintaining gyms?
Suga: Not at the moment.
Question 15: Do you plan to update which gyms will have EX Raid Battles?
Suga: We are always updating which gyms host EX Raid Battles as our business partners increase. Here in Japan, [the drug store] Matsumoto Kiyoshi just became a partner (and after that, so will Charge Spot). We hope to add more and more. We’re waiting for your inquiries!
Question 16: Will there be any updates to PVP functions, like allowing multiple battles?
Suga: Since trainer battles are an important aspect of the Pokémon franchise, we’re hoping to evolve the process in a way that suits Pokémon Go‘s style. One thing I can tell you is that the team in charge of PVP development is full of people who are huge fans of the trainer battles of the original games.
Question 17: Can you make it so that when you receive an invitation to battle, you get a notification even when the game isn’t open?
Suga: That’s a good idea.
Question 18: Are you planning to add any video functions to the Go Snapshot feature?
Suga: Go Snapshot is another feature that has exceeded our expectations. We’re thinking of all kinds of ways to bring Pokémon closer to trainers, and to let trainers have closer relationships with their Pokémon.
Question 19: Are there any plans to add a selfie function to Go Snapshot?
Suga: That’s something we’ve been talking about.
Question 20: Will we be able to use Pokémon Go Plus to throw Great Balls and Ultra Balls [as well as Poké Balls]?
Suga: There are currently no plans to do so.
Question 21: Do you plan to increase the maximum level limit for trainers?
Suga: I can’t talk about the details of that.
Question 22: Why is there a limit on the size of the Pokémon Box? Are there any plans to increase that limit?
Suga: We’re doing so carefully while keeping in mind the balance of the game. [After this interview was conducted the limit was increased to 2,500.]
Question 23: When there are bugs that happen during Community Days and other events, why aren’t there notifications within the app?
Suga: We’ll do our best in the future!
Question 24: Could you put in a function that shows the individual stats of Pokémon within the app?
Suga: We’re considering it. [It was implemented shortly after.]
Question 25: Do you have any plans to add more avatar faces, hair styles, and body types?
Suga: What kind of styles would you like to see?
Question 26: When are Gen V Unova Region Pokémon going to be added?
Suga: That’s a secret! [It was later announced that they will be added soon.]
Question 27: If Gen V is introduced, how will you incorporate Mega Evolutions into the game?
Suga: That’s also a secret!
Question 28: Will the rest of the year’s Community Days be announced ahead of time?
Suga: They will be announced as we have announced them before. [They have since released the schedule up until December of this year.]
Question 29: What do you think about the disparities between different parts of the world? [As in, some rural regions have less Pokéstops and Gyms, and Pokémon appear less frequently.]
Suga: That’s a hot topic within the company, but it’s been a difficult problem to solve.
P.K.: For someone like me who usually plays in the city, it’s pretty surprising when I go to the countryside. I feel kind of bad for the people who live there.
Suga: Even we can’t just put Pokéstops in random places when nothing is there. We’re really racking our brains for a solution.
P.K.: Can people request places to be Pokéstops in other countries? When will we be able to send in requests in Japan?
Suga: I’d like to say “as soon as possible” but…at this moment I can’t say. But I do think there are still plenty of wonderful places that people will want to go back to again and again.
Suga: We love spots that aren’t in guidebooks but have their own stories to them nonetheless. Thanks to the gift function, people now have many more opportunities to see all kinds of Pokéstops without having to go there themselves. We’re glad that it’s become one way for Pokéstops to appear in the outside world, but we’re well aware that it hasn’t solved the problem of regional disparities.
P.K.: In that case, are sponsored Pokéstops helping?
Suga: I think in one way, yes.
P.K.: We’re a little off topic, but I think one of the great things about Pokémon Go is that you can play the game without spending any money at all. Does the sponsorship system play a big role in that?
Suga: We find that sponsored Gyms are a win-win for all three parties: the sponsors, the trainers, and us at Niantic. One of our goals is not having a business model that solely relies on player transactions to survive.
Question 30: How can someone get a job at Niantic?
Suga: We all work as one, global team, so the ability to speak English is a must. We like people with teamwork skills, who believe in Niantic’s mission of building connections with people and of getting them out of the house.
P.K.: Are you currently hiring?
Suga: Yes, you can apply on our home page. Oh, and we do a lot of a business trips, so someone who likes to travel might be perfect.