Pokemon Masters is a game with an identity problem. Is it for kids? But how can you justify a gacha game for children? Is it for adults (like all gachas)? Then why is it so basic and childish? Does it want to welcome lots of new players? Then why is the difficulty curve so steep? Is it appealing to veterans? Then why is the difficulty cap so low? Let’s explore some of this.
Pokemon Masters should be a no-brainer game. Pokemon has long had appealing human characters; while the game obviously focuses on the monsters, they didn’t skimp on the npc’s, either. Why not make a game where the focus is more on said npc’s? In the age of gacha mobile games, this makes even more sense, as gambling addicts and horndogs flock to pretty ladies (and men), basically printing money. Pokemon is already a franchise about collecting all the things, so why not add the npc’s to the list? Pair a trainer with a pokemon, and you can basically print money.
At least, you’d think so. Trouble with gacha is that it’s aimed at adults, by design. Even disregarding the gambling part of it, gacha is designed for people with money. Lots more money than you’d expect a young kid to have access to. There’s an image out there, describing the different levels of paying customers in mobile games. They classify people that pay about $75/mo as “killer whales”; in gacha land, that’s minnow money. So, you need a game here that would appeal to working adults. (In Japan, the typical gacha-game player is a man in his 30’s or 40’s – the stereotypical Salary Man.)
Thing is, Pokemon Masters doesn’t do that. The gacha focuses exclusively on the gym leaders and protagonists/rivals. This means that all the characters the older playerbase might be nostalgic for (since the early games’ non-gymleader npc’s are quite basic, compared to those of later games) are likely low-rarity – meaning they’re easy to acquire. Some are of course top-rarity (particularly the protagonists and rivals), but many aren’t, at least of the ones included at the start of the game (gachas rarely add much to the lower-rarity pools – the gacha filler – after the first few months of the game).
Another factor complicating this is how safe and simple everything is kept. That Elesa up there is the sexiest outfit in the game (besides the Swimmer npc, who is not in the gacha, ever). This is an age where bikini alts and all sorts of other sexy outfits are standard for gacha games; say what you will about how appropriate that is, but that’s where the money is. Then add on the simple and short plots in the game, which make the anime seem Shakespere in comparison. And the simple combat system, even compared to the main games, is almost insulting to the intellect. So it’s hard to tell if this is for adults or kids.
Next, we look at how this handles newbs vs. veteran players. As mentioned at the start, the difficulty curve is rather steep. Even old main story fights can become real slogs for a newer player, or one who doesn’t focus on building up just a few pokemon. Even story events – which are typically how games entice new players – can have steep performance requirements for advancing their story (good thing there isn’t much there to miss…) A lot of resources for improving performance are held behind the harder missions, so giting gud requires being good to begin with. It’s very frustrating until you’ve been playing for a while – not at all friendly to new players, or retaining them…
Until you do finally git gud, at which point you’re set. Just max out your best monsters, and do what you want. Stick with the meta, and you’re even better. Lately they’ve been working on this, where you need to have a modicum of strategy besides “hit it with your biggest stat stick,” But it’s still quite easy for those already on the top – just look up the meta strategy and plug it in. It’s not like there’s any pvp at all (or even guilds) to apply your brain power – or your money.
So, there’s a problem with identity with this game. I don’t know who it’s for, or what it’s aiming to do. I don’t know if the devs do, either. It was clearly originally intended to be a low-effort cash-grab, but that didn’t work out. So there is some effort put in, now. But to what end?