April 2021 saw the annual Spring into Spring event in Pokémon GO. The event featured bunny-themed spawns, flower crown costumes, and baby Pokémon returning to Eggs. One of the featured Pokemon being the adorable flower Happiny. This addition made flower crown Happiny highly coveted, with many trainers wishing to add this Pokemon to their collection.
The problem was that flower crown Happiny had a hatch rate of less than 2%. On social media, some Trainers reported hatching over 100 Eggs without hatching a single Happiny. The situation reignited the debate and criticism of Eggs and their hidden hatch rates in Pokémon GO. There have been several Egg-themed events in the past that have highlighted the problems of the Egg-hatching mechanics. Let’s not even talk about Deino, or, if you need a reminder.
The debate around the loot box-style Egg system in Pokémon GO is by no means new, but the controversy of flower crown Happiny seems to have made the debate louder than ever. The reason for this is threefold. Firstly, flower crown Happiny was one of the featured Pokémon of the event, so many Trainers wanted to get one. Secondly, its rarity did not make sense given that its value is purely aesthetic, and its evolution was readily available in the wild. Thirdly, the event coincided with the roll-out of a new feature that allowed for greater Egg transparency in the game.
LOOT BOX DEBATE
The new feature means that Trainers can now click on an Egg to see which Pokémon might hatch from it, as well as the Pokémon’s level of rarity. The rarity scale does not give exact percentages but seems to follow the original Pokémon scaling of Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Hyper Rare. Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems that Hyper Rare Pokémon have a hatch rate of around 1%. Still need Axew for your Pokédex? Yeah, me too.
The greater Egg transparency is a good development for Trainers, although it may not feel that way. Realizing how large the Egg pool is and how rare certain Pokémon are can feel like a smack in the face. Ignorance is Blissey or something like that.
Recent articles online have raised questions about whether Eggs and Incubators are loot boxes in Pokémon GO. A loot box is an in-game purchase of a virtual container that awards players with items when they open it. The type of items received is a game of chance. Paying money for a chance to get something you want? Yup, loot boxes are a type of gambling for sure. As Incubators are purchasable virtual items that reward Trainers with chance rewards, the Egg-hatching mechanic in Pokémon GO is definitely a type of loot box.
The increasingly heated debate around the Egg-hatching system in Pokémon GO is a big problem for Niantic. More and more regulations are being introduced around the world to tackle loot boxes. A recent article by the BBC highlighted the link between loot boxes and problem gambling. It also claimed that most people that buy loot boxes in games are young, vulnerable, or from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. They argue that intentionally or not, big game companies are profiting from taking advantage of at-risk individuals. Feeling uncomfortable? I know I am.
If loot boxes are a type of gambling, should children even be able to play, or is it the parent’s responsibility to monitor their children’s account so overspending, or spending in general, doesn’t occur? It’s good to note that gambling mechanics were removed or changed in the Pokémon Main Series games because they did not want to encourage the behavior in children (the gen 1 games literally featured casinos and slot machines), should Niantic recognize this and do the same?
Nowadays, we’re in a position where Pokémon mobile games, including Pokémon GO and Pokémon GO Masters EX, utilize gambling mechanics as part of everyday gameplay. And unlike the gambling features in the Main Series games, players are now using real money.
As loot boxes are so heavily regulated, why does the Egg debate keep resurfacing in Pokémon GO? Well, loot boxes have historically been difficult to define. They look or function a little bit differently across the gaming arena, and this means that loopholes abound. In Pokémon GO, the relationship between Eggs and Incubators means it’s difficult to categorize one or both as a loot box. Eggs are the virtual containers that hold the items, but they are free to acquire. The incubators are paid items, but each player has access to a free, infinite incubator. On paper, this doesn’t seem so bad.
However, events in Pokémon GO are now only 4 or 5 days long. If an event includes an Egg-exclusive Pokémon, such as flower crown Happiny, it only gives players a narrow timeframe to get one. This encourages a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), which encourages players to want to hatch more Eggs. The cost of doing so soon adds up. Additional Incubators are 150 Poké Coins a pop, and Super-Incubators are even more, at 200 coins. It’s really not surprising that Pokémon GO has regular Egg-themed events. Niantic used Payday. It’s super effective!
Many different content creators from across the Pokémon GO player base have spoken out about the controversy surrounding flower crown Happiny, as well as the Egg-hatching system in general. Joe Merrick of Serebii.net has been vocal about the problems of Egg-hatching in Pokémon GO for years. Trainer Tips has also made his thoughts on Eggs clear during previous events. In a recent video, he outright called Eggs a scam and asked players to tell Niantic what changes we would like to see.
Decisions around Pokémon GO are not just made by Niantic; the game is a partnership between Niantic and The Pokémon Company. To place all the blame on Niantic may be unfair, especially as other Pokémon mobile games use similar mechanics. However, as a company that prides itself on its leadership, innovation, and goals for social impact and social justice, Niantic’s approach to loot boxes seems problematic.
The conversation around loot boxes is getting louder in the world’s media, and it seems that Pokémon GO is walking on eggshells. The new mechanic that allows Trainers to see what is available in Eggs may be a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough. More change is needed, and soon.
What are your thoughts on the topic of loot boxes and Eggs in Pokémon GO? Did you manage to hatch a flower crown Happiny? Let us know in the comments, on our Discord server, or on Twitter!