Pokemon Go’s new gym system is pretty typical for the game in terms of improvements. It offers players two steps forward in a lot of ways, and then two steps back in others. For one, it is a better organized and more thought out approach. Players put their Pokemon in gyms, give them berries to help them stay there, and then earn coins when they are knocked out. But certain decisions by Niantic are causing some very odd player behavior, including the three teams working together to intentionally lose gyms.
The main cause of this is the Pokecoin payout. Players earn coins for every ten minutes their Pokemon remains in a gym. Coins will accrue the whole time and will be delivered to the trainer as soon as the Pokemon is knocked out. The problem is that Niantic lowered the maximum amount of Pokecoins that players can earn in a day, down from 100 to 50.
It is the complete opposite of the basic tenants of the Pokemon universe.
At the rate that Pokemon earn coins players reach this limit after just 8 hours, which can be spread across multiple Pokemon in multiple gyms. So, let’s say you put three Pokemon into gyms, and each stays in for three hours. When they all get knocked out you will earn the full coin amount on the first two and only some of the third. If you had a fourth Pokemon out in another gym and they are knocked out on the same day, you earn nothing.
This is made even worse if Pokemon stay in gyms for a long time. Once a Pokemon has hit the eight hour mark they have completely topped out on their earnings. The player is just waiting for someone from the other team to come along and knock them out so that they can collect their Pokecoins and move on. But often that doesn’t happen. With remote gyms or gyms where other players on the same team come along and bolster the defenses, some Pokemon can remain in there for days, and everything past those first eight hours is pretty much a waste.
This is where Pokemon Go players come in. With the release of the new Legendary Raids players have been coordinating more than ever before, forming groups on Reddit, Facebook, Discord, and more. I’ve joined many of these groups and have been surprised to see in action what I’d thought would result from this new gym system.
Many of these groups have sections where players essentially just trade gyms. They mark how long their team has controlled the gym, how long their Pokemon have been in there, and request players from the other team come along and take it. This makes a ton of sense with how the gym payout system works, but it is the complete opposite of how Niantic envisioned the gym setup, and the basic tenants of the Pokemon universe.
Players are supposed to want to take over gyms and hold them as long as possible. This was how the old system worked, as players could earn coins each day their Pokemon was still in the gym. Being knocked out cut off your Pokecoin supply, as opposed to being the only way to actually get the coins that have already been earned.
Player behavior is something that designers have to take into account when designing the systems of their games. Niantic seemed to not do this when setting up the current gym system. Some tweaks here and there could fix the problem. For example, allow players to cash out at various times, either by selecting something in the game, or even by removing their Pokemon intentionally. Or the coins earned could just be deposited while the Pokemon is still in the gym, perhaps with a higher maximum to incentivize players to hold more. Some new system needs to be implemented, because the way the game currently plays is very odd and forces players to act in ways that are antithetical to the basic theme of the franchise.