Pokémon Go isn't dead yet, but if Niantic doesn't make some serious changes the game may not last until the end of 2017.
Here's just one example of the issues the game is facing: I've been playing Pokémon Go religiously since July 7, 2016 — one day after it's release — and I still don't have my goddamned Lapras. Seriously?
Lapras, of course, is one of 148 Gen 1 Pokémon — or Pokémon drawn from the original Pokémon Red and Blue games. Lapras is also considered one of the four best Pokémon in Pokémon Go by several accounts. It's practically a must-have Pokémon for anyone who wants to dominate at Pokémon Go gyms.
I have seen a Lapras on my radar only twice. Once back in July with the old Sightings feature that told you virtually nothing about where the Pokémon was located, and once, just this week, hanging out by a PokéStop too far down the road for me to get to in time before the Lapras despawned.
My inability to score a Lapras is everything that's wrong with Pokémon Go, and what needs to be fixed this year. Let me explain.
Pokémon Go update: Add more PokéStops!
You could hypothetically spend real world money to purchase PokéBalls and play Pokémon Go without ever seeing a PokéStop. But, realistically speaking, if you want to play Pokémon Go you need PokéStops to visit. That's where you get your basic supplies for the game, like potions, revives, Razz Berries and PokéBalls.
Unfortunately, trying to find PokéStops outside major cities or tourist areas is ridiculous. There are huge Poképocalyptic swaths of America in which Pokémon Go play is untenable for the lack of PokéStops to spin. Gyms are usually located near clusters of PokéStops. So even if you had supplies by which to fuel some gym battles you'd still have no place to fight.
None of these complaints are news, of course. Pokémon Go players in suburban or rural areas have been complaining about the lack of PokéStops since the game launched. The company has responded by increasing Pokémon spawns in some areas, but it still hasn't addressed the lack of PokéStops.
Niantic needs to do something along the lines of what the company did to launch its previous augmented reality game, Ingress. Players nominated locations in the real world to become parts of the play space in Ingress. Those locations eventually became PokéStops in Pokémon Go, but it's still not enough.
Unless there is some insurmountable obstacle to this process, Niantic should open Pokémon Go up for a PokéStop submission process the same way that Ingress players chose the original locations for that game.
Pokémon Go Update: Pokémon spawn rates mean nothing without supplies and variety
As I mentioned before, Niantic did increase Pokémon spawns in an update last month to help make the game more playable in rural and suburban areas. This is ultimately meaningless. People with no access to PokéStops still need to shell out real money to buy PokéBalls and catch those extra Pokémon.
Just as important as PokéStop access is the variety of Pokémon that spawn in your area. Pokémon spawn in different patterns, depending on where you live in the real world. Some areas will see a glut of water-type Pokémon, while other areas will have hardly any water Pokémon at all. This is often based on real-world geographical features, like a nearby body of water.
So players that can't travel widely will likely never be able to "catch 'em all." More generous spawn algorithms would benefit all Pokémon Go players, not just the ones on the fringes of the play space. I certainly might have my goddamned Lapras by now if Pokémon Go wasn't so stingy.
Pokémon Go Update: Gym battles need challenge and consequence
If you play Pokémon Go just to fill in your Pokédex then that's the end of the game for you. Otherwise, gym battling might be what fuels your long-term interest in Pokémon Go, and right now gym battling is neither as fun nor as rewarding as it deserves to be.
Other than showing off your Pokémon, the only advantage to gym battling is to earn 10 PokéCoins per gym defender to spend in the Pokémon Go store. The best value in the store is an Incubator that goes for 150 PokéCoins. So it can take a while for the PokéCoin bonuses from gym defense to add up to anything.
It is also far too easy to lose a gym in Pokémon Go. Attackers during a gym battle can take six of their favorite Pokémon into battle. Even a level 10 gym, with as many defenders cannot hold out forever in the face of six strong attackers.
The bonus for holding a gym needs to make gym ownership more attractive and worth fighting to maintain. It also needs to be more difficult for attackers to take down enemy gyms, such that a steady supply of potions and revives isn't all a competent attacker needs to conquer any gym, no matter how strong it is.
Even if the only reason to take a gym is to show off my Lapras, I don't see many of them atop gyms where I live. I'd really like to amend that; more PokéStops and better spawn algorithms will certainly help.
More Pokémon Go news, tips, tricks and updates
If you have your own list of all the ways to fix Pokémon Go, you may also want to check out Mic's other Pokémon Go tips and tricks. Here are guides on how to catch Gen 2 baby Pokémon, the 98 Gen 2 Pokémon that have yet to be added to the game, our analysis of post-update Chansey and Rhydon, everything you need to know about finding the long-awaited Pokémon Ditto, how to create new PokéStops, how to maximize your chances of catching Pokémon and how PokéStops distribute Pokémon eggs.