The headaches of Pokemon Go's EX raid pass problems - and how to solve it

Pokemon Go is not as hot as when it first made its debut in 2016, but millions of players, or "trainers", are still catching Pokemon.
Pokemon Go is not as hot as when it first made its debut in 2016, but millions of players, or "trainers", are still catching Pokemon.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Another week has passed and I still haven't been able to get into special battles in Pokemon Go to nab myself some very rare rewards - rare digital monsters, to be precise.

Seriously, I am contemplating quitting the augmented-reality mobile game because of this, despite it being one of my favourite distractions.

While the game, also called Pogo, is not as hot as when it first made its debut in 2016, millions of players, or "trainers", are still catching Pokemon - the game's virtual critters - every day around the world.

In fact, Pogo netted developer Niantic a whopping US$890 million (S$1.17 billion) in revenue last year. The game is free to play but gamers can cough up real cash to buy special items or other perks.

It's common to see large crowds of Pogo fans gathering at places designated as "Gyms", to catch rare Pokemon in special battles called "raids".

To participate in normal raids, you need a raid pass (either free or paid). But a rarer version exists called the EX raid pass. It is only given out weekly and in limited numbers, and can only be used at a specific Gym on a particular date and time.

What's the point of the EX raid pass? It currently gives you the chance to fight and catch arguably the most powerful Pokemon, Mewtwo.

Yet, the chance to fight this coveted Pokemon is absolutely random and defies logic.

According to Niantic, you have to join more raid battles in different Gyms to increase your chances of getting the EX raid pass.

But search through Reddit forums and one can find Pogo trainers complaining that they have done over 100 raids in various Gyms without getting an EX raid pass. Yet, others have scored with just one raid battle.

It also does not seem to matter whether you are a hardcore or casual Pogo trainer.

Also, it's speculated that those who have received an EX raid pass before will have a higher chance of getting another. One trainer indicated on the Pokemon Go Singapore Facebook page that he has received six EX raid passes from the same gym.

To make matters worse, the EX raids always occur at odd timings like 3pm or 4pm on a Wednesday or Thursday. So, even those who received the EX raid pass might not able to make it due to work, school or family commitments.

The randomness of receiving an EX raid pass is getting on the nerves of even the most dedicated Pogo trainers. A colleague, who is at level 40 (the highest achievable level currently), recently quit the game in frustration over her inability to get an EX raid pass.

I do not understand why Niantic is creating trouble for itself by making so many dedicated Pogo trainers unhappy. It also runs the risk of losing more trainers in the long run.

I'd like to offer a simple solution: Do away with the randomness in how EX raid passes are given out.

Allow Pogo trainers to use normal raid passes for Mewtwo raids. But keep the Mewtwo raids exclusive by limiting them to one appearance per location, say Tiong Bahru Park or Botanic Gardens, in one day. But make these EX raids last for two hours instead of the current 45 minutes, so trainers have time to travel to get there.

If Niantic does not fix this flawed EX raid pass system one way or another, it may one day pay for it when hardcore trainers leave the game by the truckload.