Niantic’s Pokémon GO has been encouraging Pokémon fans to take to the streets since the summer of 2016. When the game first released, players were very limited on what they could catch and the overall mechanics for the game were rather simple. Despite this, Pokémon GO was extremely popular, and players flocked to local parks and urban areas to take advantage of Pokéstops and gyms that were packed closely together in these populated spaces. While big cities became Pokémon GO hubs, however, small towns and rural areas struggled to enjoy the game, which often shorted these less populated areas the needed locations to play.
While many improvements have been made to Pokémon GO, including the addition of different regional species to catch, Team Rocket as a villain, and PvP-style battle mechanics, players who live in less populated areas still struggle to enjoy the game. In 2021, Pokémon GO continues to favor highly-populated areas like big cities and downtown spaces, leaving those in suburbs and more rural locations stranded if they don’t want to travel to find the closest populated area nearby.
Players on Reddit have discussed the issues that this urban favoritism has caused for the game since its release. While those who might want more than three gyms and a handful of Pokéstops can reach out and put in a request with Niantic, often this isn’t enough to make the game worthwhile. Rural players consistently lack the reimgs needed to catch Pokémon they find without spending money, and are often disappointed with low spawn rates and limited available types. This can make the game not just slow, but frustratingly boring.
One of the biggest struggles that players from small towns and rural areas will face while trying to play Pokémon GO is community events. With few Pokéstops and gyms, and a long commute to populated spaces, these players often lack the players needed to take on gyms with high CP Legendary Pokémon, causing them to lose out on special events. They may also have to walk much farther and longer than players in heavily-populated areas to finish field research and special objectives for the events. These hurdles can make participation nearly impossible, depending on how small the location is.
By ignoring players in less populated areas, Pokémon GO omits a number of Pokémon fans who would love to play. Developers should take into account the problems these players face, and make changes that improve gameplay in these areas. With Pokémon GO coming up on its five year anniversary, it is upsetting that this issue has persisted and impacted a number of players who would otherwise enjoy the game. While it isn’t clear if developers have any plans to tackle the poor management of rural and low population areas, Pokémon GO could still take some time to balance mechanics, making the gameplay more inclusive for fans who would like to play.