PoGO Beta: Why It's a Good Thing You Didn't Get Picked
When it was announced that the Pokémon GO Field Test would be expanding to the United States, I was so excited that I couldn’t hold it in. I was sitting in a class lecture at the time, and tapped the shoulder of the kid in front of me, just so I could tell someone about it out loud. Throughout the week that followed, I eagerly anticipated the moment when the beta testers would be selected and notified. And on May 25, when I saw Niantic’s post informing us that the day had finally come and emails would soon be sent out, I literally yelled out to everyone in the game development room with me, and explained the seriousness of the situation. I went online and tried to make sure everyone else knew what was coming. I wanted the world to be as excited as I was.
I then pressed F5 on my inbox until my fingers were bloodied. (By the way: beta invites come from the email address Pokémongofirstname.lastname@example.org for Android users, and email@example.com for iOS users invited via TestFlight. If you want to set your email to alert you if you get invited to a future wave of invites, use those addresses in the filter. Then you can save yourself from finger-smashing like me.)
But nothing ever came. I expected to at least get some spam emails from Niantic notifying me that one of my portals was being attacked, to give me a small heart attack before I realized that it wasn’t the email that I was waiting for. But no one was attacking my portals. Invites had begun rolling out at almost exactly 3pm MT, and it seemed that all of the Ingress players were too busy playing Pokémon GO. The emails were sent out, and I never got one.
If I didn’t get picked, who did?!
Only high levels. At first it seemed like they only took VERY high leveled Ingress players, but I have now seen some players as low as Level 9 who were lucky enough to make it in via lottery, (Reddit users saintsoma, son_bakazaru, captnpermafield, ponyta_express, AlexandrinaIsHere, Toxicratman were all lucky enough to make it in via lottery at Level 9,) but as far as I can tell, that is the absolute low of the cutoff. The majority of Beta testers were Level 12+, with a solid chunk of maxed Ingress players. Although no Ingress level guaranteed a spot, as many double-digit-leveled players were left out. Despite a last minute push to get a higher level in Ingress so that I could join the beta, I have only ever made it to Level 7. Geographically, it seems like about 20% of the testers were from the Midwest, and 24% were from the Pacific Coast. The mountain region, where I live, got less than 8% of the beta invites. And for beta invites in general, it seems that only about 9 or 10% of those who applied were accepted.
Niantic’s stated reason for preferring Ingress players is because they have more experience with this genre of game, and can therefore provide better feedback. But I think that it may go a little deeper than that. I think Niantic might also be punishing us for all of the leaks out of Australia. They’re trying to keep this game under wraps. First, because they don’t want too many people to get a bad impression in the early stages. But they also don’t want to spoil the general release. When the game drops, they want people to be hype and surprised. They want people to enter a new world of wonder and get immersed in the game, and not just apathetically open an app that they have already watched game-play for a hundred times. Niantic experimented with non-Ingress players in Aus/NZ and there were gameplay videos galore. So now they went back to high level Ingress players that they have leverage over. If a level 16 Ingress player decides to breach the terms of the nondisclosure agreement, they do so at the risk of losing everything. Not only does Niantic ban them from the Field Test that they probably practically prayed to get into, but they could also ban them from Ingress and destroy everything they have worked for over the past couple of years.
I went through a mini-rotation of the stages of grief. Posting denial on my Facebook, “You know what? Fine. I didn’t need to be a beta tester anyway. I don’t even like Pokémon GO that much.” Feeling anger, “Why would they only invite Ingress players? Don’t they need to know how the general public will interact with the game?” Bargaining in imaginary emails to Niantic, “I would be the best beta tester ever. I already know far more about how this game works than most people playing it. If you just let me in, I will give you feedback so hard, you won’t even know what to do with yourselves.” The inevitable depression as I was left with the crippling realization that there were people running all around town playing this game, and I was just going to be in my room. Indoors, sitting alone in the dark.
And finally, acceptance. That’s what this post is. So if you’re with the over-90% that haven’t been picked, like me, here are some reasons to still get out of bed in the morning.
The game isn’t even that good right now
Dronpes, the organizer of an amazing Pokémon GO initiative called The Silph Road, warned potential users, “I’ll be frank: You will get a little bored playing this game. Every field tester will tell you that’s true.” We get so excited about every leak and every update that it is easy to forget that this is still a game in production, which is far from being as engaging as the final product hopefully will be. In terms of game-play, there is still really no reason to even do things such as defend Gyms. And once you have caught all the Pokémon in your area, you’re pretty much done, since you can’t train them anyway. I have some friends who actually WERE lucky enough to get accepted to the Field Test, and the game is so buggy that it won’t even function. Many players report problems with the GPS that make it impossible for them to actually explore the in-game world. You are not being given the exclusive opportunity to play a finished game, as much as working to test and helping Niantic to get to that point.
The game world is desolate
One of the biggest parts of any MMO is interacting with all of the other players who are in the same game world. You might have already noticed this, but… there aren’t a ton of those. Such a small number of field testers got invited that there isn’t really anyone around. No teammates, no rivals. Such a small number of people to play the game with takes away one of the core aspects of it. You can only deploy a maximum of one Pokémon at a Gym by yourself, and a Gym with one Pokémon to beat isn’t really much of a Gym. Although one group in Australia was able to get together 3 days ago and work hard to achieve the world’s first max-level Gym (Level 30, with 204,000 Prestige and 21 Pokémon deploy slots), that is definitely the exception and not the rule. Generally, as you go around in the game world, it is as empty as the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, with maybe one or two other people surviving in the neighborhood that you could interact with. You can feel much more comradery with other Pokémon GO fans right now by sharing their pain in not getting picked for the beta, than you could while actually playing the game with such a small slither of people.
You will actually be able to keep your first Pokémon
The main page at Pokemongo.nianticlabs.com reads, “Test player accounts and game data will not be transferred to the release version. Game progression and data will be wiped multiple times during the course of the field test. Due to the nature of this field test, game data can be erased inadvertently at any time.” So imagine that you are walking around a forest, with Pokémon GO in your hand for the first time, and you see a Caterpie and catch it. Your very first Pokémon! You evolve that Caterpie into a Metapod, and then a Butterfree. You are going to be best friends forever. …Except not. Your magical experience with your little Poke-buddy is guaranteed to end. At any point you could wake up, and the game data has been wiped. Then it’s Bye-Bye Butterfree all over again.
The first rule of PoGO Beta is: you do not talk about PoGO Beta
You will have everything that you have ever dreamed of in the palm of your hand, and you have to shut up and hide it. You can’t even tell anyone about it. This is one part that I do not know if I could handle. Share a screenshot online and you lose it all. Right now, I can report on Pokémon GO all that I like (and I do) without any repercussions. But once I get into the Beta, I will be contractually obligated to shut up about all of the cool little details about content that I have been sharing. It might be better to wait for general release, where I could upload a video of my progress every hour if I wanted to, and be able to fully document my Pokémon journey.
It’s not your last chance
Above are four reasons why it’s a good thing you didn’t get picked. And if that isn’t enough reason for you to accept the fact that you didn’t get invited, there are still additional waves of beta invites to come out soon. And you better believe that if I get one, I’m going to ignore every single thing that I previously listed here. In fact, many of them will be better then, anyway. When the second wave comes out, it will be a more developed game, closer to the general release. There will be better multiplayer game-play as one of the next things that they will be adding is the ability to team up with your friends to take down enemy gyms in multi-battles. And there will be more players around to do so with, since there will have been another entire wave of testers added. And as far as I can tell, you will be able to talk directly with those people about the game as much as you would like. Yeah, you would still lose every Pokémon that you catch. But you’ll have to weigh whether that is worth it.