Holiday events have now become a major part of Pokémon GO. It all started back with Halloween, which remains one of the most exciting events so far, offering massive increases to buddy Pokemon rewards, double candies for other activities and a wealth of ghostly Pokémon. The Thanksgiving and Christmas events, however, left a little to be desired. No major bonuses gave fewer reasons to get out there, and neither saw the same uptick in activity that Halloween provided. Flash forward to Valentine’s Day, and the population is yet still diminished. For the people that remain, however, this is one of the best events Niantic has pulled out yet.
The events first two major features are double candy and a preponderance of “pink” Pokémon, both of which are solid and necessary components. You can’t have an event without increased rewards, and double candy gives anyone who still has the app on their phone a reason to get curious and get walking. Pink Pokémon are a nice incentive for high level players that have yet to see a Chansey or a Porygon, but more importantly they give the event a flavor. Things feel more Valentines-y out there in the same way that all the ghosts felt like Halloween. It gives things an air of the special, which is crucial.
But while double candy is always useful, it’s the lures that really make this event shine. Lure modules now last six hours, making one of the game’s less useful premium items much, much stronger. Lures work for everyone, so this effect snowballs. Pokémon GO is a deeply social game pretty much by accident, because the game on its own does very little to encourage player-to-player interaction. But lures are one place where a game mechanic really does facilitate real world interaction, and that’s on full display here. I’ve seen Pokéstops lit up with lures and populated by trainers in a way that I haven’t seen since launch.
It’s a pretty vital thing for the game to do right now, even if you don’t end up actually seeing people during a lure’s six-hour duration. Just the presence of lures reminds you that while the Pokémonning population is significantly diminished, it is still there, and people in your neighborhood are still hunting for the little guys. It is not something that will lure new or lapsed players to the game, but it is something that will increase the resolve of those that remain: that’s what the game needs right now as the developer plans to let loose with Gen 2 and hopefully make a push at regaining some sort of prominence as spring arrives.
As I’ve said before, Pokémon GO is sleeping. It’s nowhere near the phenomenon it was last summer, but there remains a dedicated core of players quietly grinding away to fill out Pokédexes as they hope for a real game to arrive in this shell sometime soon. They may still be disappointed, but this event does a good job at reminding them that they’re not alone, which feels like a pretty good reflection of Valentine’s day to me.