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Trading in Pokémon Go is on the way, but does the game even need it?

Players fall divided, more than a year post-launch

Pokemon Go Craze Hits New York City Mike Coppola/Getty Images

More multiplayer features are definitely coming to Pokémon Go, and it’s The Pokémon Company that’s confirming them this time. The Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishikara hinted in an interview with Bloomberg that both trading and “peer-to-peer battles” are in the works — but at this point, some players are questioning whether Pokémon Go even needs them.

“We’ve only accomplished 10 percent of what Pokémon and Niantic are trying to do,” said Ishikara, “so going forward we will have to include fundamental Pokémon experiences such as Pokémon trading and peer-to-peer battles, and other possibilities.”

We’ve heard this before, but never from someone on The Pokémon Company front. Niantic CEO John Hanke has said time and again that the team is thinking constantly about how to implement trading and one-on-one battles, as have other members of the development studio.

It’s been slow-going on actually implementing those features, however. With the introduction of Raid Battles in June, Pokémon Go finally has some semblance of a multiplayer mode, more than a year after Niantic first teased the game. But Raid Battles differ from the traditional multiplayer features that Pokémon fans are used to from the series’ mainline games, and they continue to request them for the augmented reality mobile iteration.

The differences between Pokémon Go and the handheld games on which it’s based have only become more and more obvious. Pokémon Go hinges on the outdoor experience, with Niantic’s interest lying more in forging real life community bonds than in-game ones. That’s clear from events like July’s Pokémon Go Fest (disastrous it may have been) and the upcoming Safari Zones, which will be smaller-scale live events across Europe.

Collecting Pokémon by actually adventuring around the world is idealistic, so trading could fill a need for more isolated players, in theory. Although spoofed Pokémon remain a concern — as does the idea that some people could capitalize on the feature by selling their rare Pokémon to others — many completionists seem on board with making exclusive Pokémon more accessible.

“As much as I'd love to travel around the world and catch Pokémon, I simply don't have the means right now,” AxelV2 said in a Reddit thread posing the question of whether trading is necessary for the game. “Trading would give me the opportunity to complete my Dex by trading with people who have visited those places. I'm sure many people are in the same boat as me, and are relying on trading to complete their Dex.”

At the same time, Niantic has made it clear that Pokémon Go players will still need to meet up in order to trade. That seems to defeat the purpose that hardcore players have for a trading feature. It also again emphasizes the local, live focus that Pokémon Go has had since launch — Niantic wants players to actually get out there and, pardon the pun, go. If people can just stay home and have a complete Pokédex, Niantic fails on delivering the longterm experience promised by the game.

As for battling, Pokémon Go’s version thus far simplifies the more tactical, complex form of fights in the original games. While Pokémon in the mobile game still have different stats and move sets, tapping a screen to claim victory seems less satisfying than deploying attacks in a thoughtful manner.

We know very little about how PvP battles and trading will look in Pokémon Go, though, so it may be unfair to speculate. But with the game already steadfast about focusing on the real-world experience — consider that certain Pokémon are locked to specific regions, and legendary monsters available only for a limited time — adding features that ignore this primary facet seems a bit counterproductive.

That being said, as lovers of the original Pokémon games, we can’t totally complain about Pokémon Go moving more in their direction.