Well, all the Pokémon-related news these days is about Pokémon Sun and Moon on the 3DS, and the game is shaping up to be a monster hit for Nintendo. But things are happening across the platform aisle in Pokémon GO as well, the game whose synergy helped give Sun and Moon a big boost this year with 500 million+ downloads of the mobile game, raising Poké-awareness to stratospheric new heights.
GO got a relatively minor patch this weekend, fixing a few specific issues including the game’s infamous, non-descriptive “minor text fixes.” But what it contained under the surface may be even more significant than that, laying the groundwork for the first appearance of “Shiny” Pokémon in the game, and hinting at the imminent release of Ditto, one of the only original Pokémon still missing from the game.
The history of Pokémon being “Shiny” in the handheld games is long and complicated. The term “Shiny” refers to a Pokémon that appears as a specially colored variant. It could be a Pokémon that’s just a few shades different, or it could be a more drastic change, like a Ponyta with blue flames instead of orange.
Back in Generation 2 when the concept was first introduced, Shiny Pokémon meant that they would have perfect IVs, with maxed stats in every category. But in every generation after that, the formula was changed to have nothing to do with stats, and instead Shiny Pokémon would appear using calculations from the trainer’s ID number and the Pokémon’s “personality value.” That ended up giving Shiny Pokémon an insanely low chance of appearance, just 1 in 8192. This formula continued in some form through the next few generations, with a few items here and there increasing that chance, but it’s still an exceptionally rare occurrence.
Enter Pokémon GO, where we have dug through the latest APK that came with the new patch, and for the first time have found distinct values for “Default” and “Shiny” Pokémon. While there are not new files that show actual reskins of Pokémon yet, the idea is that this is laying the groundwork for such an appearance soon enough. Nothing can be confirmed as of yet, and Niantic isn’t talking, but it’s exciting for many fans to learn that Shiny Pokémon might be making their way to GO all the same.
In my mind, it would actually be sort of great if Niantic used the Gen II formula for making Shiny Pokémon appear in the game. Anything that’s 100% IV would appear as Shiny, rather than using some complicated mathematical formula to make it only a 1/8000 chance of seeing a Shiny otherwise. This fits within the mechanics of the game, as there’s already an inborn IV calculator in the form of appraisals, but the appearance of a Shiny in this fashion would be both extremely rare, and immediately indicate that this was a “perfect” Pokémon.
I have played a lot of Pokémon GO, and I’ve only caught maybe 3,000 Pokémon total. So I could play for nearly three times that long and still not see a Shiny using the later generation formulas. That may work for the handheld games, but for GO, which is always trying to increase engagement in its playerbase, I have to think that making Shiny hunting a viable activity would be a good way to do that, and the odds should be a bit better than that.
Moving on, while there isn’t too much about Shiny Pokémon in this update, there is a ton of new info about Ditto, who has a number of assets added to the game in the APK now, from a sound effects to move sets to new backgrounds and a “spotlight” effect which may indicate that he may show up on the map or in the Pokedex in a different way from a standard Pokémon. Above all else, the update seems to indicate Ditto is “encounterable,” which is a switch from before. It’s unknown whether somehow, he might be in the wild now, or he’s about to be activated in a forthcoming update. But his arrival does seem imminent.
Ditto has always been one of the strangest absences from Pokémon GO because he’s not a legendary like the Birds or Mew or Mewtwo. Presumably there was some sort of issue with getting his “transform” move to work effectively during gym battles, as it’s a mechanic outside of what any other Pokémon use. But what’s unclear is if when Niantic inserts him in the game, if he will show up in some sort of special event, or if he will just be a wild encounter like any other. Again, given Niantic’s desire to keep the base engaged, I think some sort of “Ditto quest” would be a good move for the game, and something that could be a test run for larger, more important events for the Legendary Birds and Mewtwo down the line.
As exciting as Ditto may be for some, I think the idea of Shiny Pokémon in GO has a lot more potential to reinvigorate the playerbase to some degree, so long as the encounters aren’t one-in-a-million. Practically nothing is as exciting as capturing a Shiny Pokémon in the handheld game, and it would be great if Niantic could figure out a way to replicate some of that excitement for GO. It’s unclear when this might work its way into the game, but this is one update that it could use sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.