Long-requested features for Pokémon Go are in the works, and chief among them is trading Pokémon. But players stuck in smaller towns who are eager to fill out their Pokédex will likely remain out of luck, senior product manager Tatsuo Nomura told Polygon at this week’s Game Developers Conference.
“[Trading] won’t be through the internet,” he said of the mechanic, which remains in development and heavily under wraps. “You shouldn’t be able to exchange your Pokémon with someone who is 100 miles away from you. ... The person needs to be in your proximity.”
Players interacting in real life remains the utmost priority for Niantic, even if that comes at the expense of more isolated players’ Pokédexes. Even as the core mechanics continue to change and expand, Pokémon Go is still about getting players together in person. That’s not just Niantic’s vision for the mobile game, Nomura said, it’s how the developer defines its overall purpose.
“I wasn’t really thinking of trading as a way to solve the local area spawn issue,” Nomura said, elaborating on the developer’s intent for the feature. “That was more, we have a couple Pokémon that only spawn in a couple regions, and that was the hope, that some Pokémon you have to know someone or find someone who lives in certain regions and meet and exchange.
“We don’t want to just have that be an online game that you can just exchange virtually.”
Even so, Nomura referred to Pokémon Go as a massively multiplayer game. The label is fitting, however, when considering how many groups of people went out and played the game together when it launched last summer. Although Pokémon pub crawls and huge social gatherings died down as the weather changed, Niantic is hoping that events like these crop up again — and those types of events are where players should look for trading opportunities.
Still, rural Pokémon trainers may be disappointed by this. Nomura explained that Niantic has continued to improve the small town experience, however, so that those areas are less barren than they were when Pokémon Go launched.
“The last couple of months, we updated our data set so that hiking trails that are more often found in local areas have more Pokémon,” he said. Players have picked up on the change in spawn rates, and Niantic regularly launches in-game promotions that make it easier to find Pokémon across regions.
Soon, Niantic will again open up new landmark submissions for Ingress, the company’s early augmented reality game that lends its location data for Pokémon Go’s own places of interests. Partnerships with Sprint and Starbucks have also led to thousands more PokéStops. Both should lead to more chances to collect the game’s increasing number of Pokémon.
Trading remains an important piece of the catch-’em-all part of Pokémon Go, though. Nomura recognizes just how much weight the feature holds for hardcore players.
“We’re still trying to come up with an answer [to trading] that makes sense so it doesn’t kill the game,” he said. “If we fail this, we can easily kill the game.”
Expect Niantic to implement trading sometime later this year, once the developer is confident it has the feature right.