Yu Sasaki, producer on mobile game Pokémon Masters, recently issued a public apology for the game’s lack of content. His lengthy statement acknowledges a list of player grievances, which includes poor battle design and usability, and promises to address them.
“We’re disappointed we did not meet the expectations of our community, and for this, we sincerely apologize,” Sasaki explained in a post on the game’s website yesterday. “It’s our intention that this does not happen again. Hearing these opinions from fellow Trainers has deepened our sense of commitment to deliver a game we can call be proud of. Both the development and operations teams are fully committed to improving this game and creating a memorable experience for all fans to enjoy.” Sasaki didn’t share a detailed road map for these promised improvements in the post.
Pokémon Masters was an almost immediate success upon launching in late August, hitting 10 million downloads in just 10 days and racking up an estimated $25 million in revenue over its first week. Kotaku senior reporter Mike Fahey praised the game in its early days for developing the trainers behind the ubiquitous pocket monsters, along with its non-intrusive microtransactions. Despite belonging to the often-predatory gacha genre in which its developer, DeNA, frequently dabbles, Pokémon Masters makes excellent use of the property it was provided.
But a mega-popular franchise can only take you so far. Pokémon Masters players were quickly surprised by how little actual content was in the game. While the developers were quick to kick off events featuring new trainers, the main story ends abruptly with an unceremonious “To Be Continued” message, leaving players with little to do afterwards but grind through side missions and tedious online co-op battles with rewards that players felt were, for the most part, not worth the effort.
Players also feel that balancing is an issue. Some trainers are so hilariously overpowered that it’s not worth using anyone else. This led to online matches being full of co-op partners all using the same small group of characters. I don’t have any great affinity for Olivia and her Lycanroc or even series ur-rival Blue and his Pidgeot, but they became mainstays in my team for their overall utility in just about every battle. Pokémon is a franchise that celebrates forming a special connection with those one or two creatures that uniquely suit your interests, but instead of being able to successfully field my favorite trainers—much love, Koga and Crobat—I felt pigeonholed when it came to the mobile game’s more difficult fights.
“Our goal is to create an experience like the fans witness in that first animated trailer: Gathering iconic sync pairs and tackling touch challenges as you grow and strengthen bonds with your team,” Sasaki wrote. “We felt that by needing to focus too much on specific skills, players felt forced into a situation where all team compositions looked identical, and there was an overall sense that there was only one correct approach for each challenge. “What we hope to create is an environment where fans can partner with their favorite sync pairs and find unique solutions to entertaining challenges.”
An expanded Pokémon Masters team featuring new producer Tetsuya Iguchi is currently working towards releasing more story events and tweaking the game’s reward system. While there are no specifics yet, the fact the producers have made such a public acknowledgement of the game’s issues is promising. I look forward to seeing what changes are made in the future.