How Should ‘Pokémon GO’ Unleash Its Legendary Birds?

In the past few weeks, Pokémon GO rolled out its “Buddy System” update for the game, and while players are still waiting for an updated tracking system, PvP battling and other features, one question about the game remains.

When are the legendaries getting here?

With the introduction of the Buddy System as a way to grind out specific candy, Pokémon GO players are starting to fill out their Pokedexes in ways they weren’t able to before. But still a subset of the original 151 remains unobtainable no matter what players do, and that has to change at some point.

I’m fully of the opinion that it’s almost about time for region-exclusive Pokémon to go away. While it was a fun concept in theory, it’s going to eventually be frustrating if GO requires players to take international vacations in the hopes of catching the likes of Farfetch’d, Kangaskhan, Tauros and Mr. Mime around the world, so eventually those need to be added to the worldwide ecosystem. Ditto is its own problem, most likely a programming issue that makes copying a gym defender’s moves and movesets more complicated than anything else the game has had to deal with to date.

But the legendaries? Zapdos, Mewtwo, Moltres, Mewtwo and Mew? These are Pokémon that fans have been salivating over since launch.

Today I just want to focus on the three birds, leaving the issue of the all-powerful Mewtwo and Mew for another day. It seems likely the birds would arrive before the psychic duo, and I’m wondering just what Niantic is planning for their roll-out, if they’ve even decided at this point. In a game all about randomized spawns and egg hatches, how exactly do you roll out one-of-a-kind legendary creatures?

The way I see it, there are a few different options here.

Global Spawn Points

I recently read a ReCode interview with John Hanke where he was talking about holding “events” for Pokémon GO, and his concern was about the number of people showing up to such a thing. The implication there was that maybe, like the trailer that showed fans trying to mass-capture a Mewtwo in Times Square, that say, the legendary birds could spawn at specific famous landmarks around the world in specifically timed “events” to get Pokémon GO players together.

While that sounds good in theory and fits in with the theme of the game, I worry about how this would work in practice. Given thatPokémon GO is a global game, it would be a tremendous amount of work to pick landmarks across the entire globe for legendary birds to spawn at, and once again, this would most likely bias things toward city players.

If you start tying legendary bird spawns to “big landmarks” that’s great for people living near Times Square or Chicago’s Bean or the Space Needle or what have you, but tasking players with taking lengthy, expensive trips to try and catch rare Pokémon would be pretty discouraging. There are too many players in rural areas that such a system wouldn’t be fair to. Unless there’s some sort of way to trigger this so a legendary bird automatically spawns within X miles from players on a given date, basing events around landmarks is a way to leave much of the playerbase behind, if such a thing would even be possible to plan in the first place.

The Great Instinct/Valor/Mystic Melee

It’s well known at this point that teams Instinct, Valor and Mystic all correspond with each of the three legendary birds, given that they make up their three logos. Therefore, it seems somewhat logical that when the legendary birds do come, it would be tied into the teams and perhaps gym dominance somehow, rather than simply a spawn Niantic plants in the wild.

I can imagine some sort of meter where it’s a build up to the release of each bird. Maybe once Instinct takes over a certain number of gyms, the next time you, an instinct player, takes over one, Zapdos will spawn for you. Or if Team Valor takes over 50,000 gyms worldwide, that means Moltres is released to its members. And so on.

The tricky aspect of this would be that of course, everyone is going to want all three birds, so restricting them by team isn’t really feasible in the long run. If I had known my team choice would dictate what legendary bird I would have access to, I would have picked Instinct all the way instead of Valor (ugh, Moltres is so lame). With that said, given that Niantic doesn’t seem to care about people not being able to access regional Pokémon, maybe they would be fine with teams each just getting one bird to themselves.

Still, I think there’s a way to do this where eventually all three birds are released for everyone, as each team fulfills some sort of specific takeover objective.

Earn That Bird

My own personal preference, rather than landmark spawns or relying on a million members of your team that you have no control over, would be the ability for players to work toward unlocking each bird themselves. A quest, of sorts, which would have objectives based on each bird. Here’s an example of a Destiny-style “exotic quest” for Zapdos.

– Walk 50 km with an electric Pokémon as your buddy

– Catch or hatch 25 electric-type Pokémon

– Put five electric-type Pokémon at gyms

– Receive a 25 km “special egg”

– Hatch it, and then “do battle” with a rowdy Zapdos who cannot flee, but will take many, many balls and berries to catch.

Zapdos can only be caught once, and can only be trained with candies you received from him being your (5 km per candy) buddy. Repeat this process for each of the three birds.

Honestly, this sounds like the best way forward to me, rather than causing riots at landmarks and leaving players out, or trying to coordinate millions of specific team members worldwide. A clear goal players can work toward, and with enough effort, earn the best Pokémon in the game.

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