When it was announced that the Pokémon Go Plus — the official accessory for the game — would be available at Nintendo NYC today, I was excited. I may have stopped playing after weeks of traversing the city in search of my favorite Pokemon, but I saw the Plus as a way to get back into the game. The reality, having now purchased one, is a bit … underwhelming.
I expected a lot of people to be in line for the long-awaited product, so I woke at the crack of dawn in order to get ahead of the traffic. But, because this is New York City and there is always traffic, I arrived at the Nintendo store shortly before opening. I scurried over thinking I wouldn’t get the chance to even enter, thinking that the line would stretch around the block. However, to my surprise, the line barely reached the neighboring store. All told, about 50 people were waiting when I showed up.
In my boredom, I struck a conversation with a couple people in line that turned out to be Dronpes and Moots, creators of The Silph Road, a popular Pokémon Go subreddit with more than 200,000 followers and a focus on building interpersonal connections through Pokémon Go. The community also helps people find local Pokémon hubs to build their Pokédex.
What keeps them playing after the steep decline in active players? Its not the type of game where you need to stop playing,” says Dronpes. “There are some balancing issues, but the game doesn’t seem off to me.” Moots said he’s a completionist, and still has more to catch. We chatted until finally entering the store and we prepared to buy our devices.
The store itself greeted me with the same theme music from that plays when you boot up the Pokémon Go app. After I made it to the front of the line and paid, I finally noticed the $35 price tag. “Why’s such a little trinket with a flashing light so expensive?” I asked myself. I quickly sat down and tried to figure out how to work the damn thing.
For starters, you can’t immediately use the wristband. In order to use in in the way that most marketing materials present it, you have to unscrew the entire back in order to attach the separate wristband piece. But okay, whatever, the wristband doesn’t have to go on right away, I guess.
I connected my phone to the device via Bluetooth and clipped it onto my hip. Almost immediately, it started to vibrate and blink different colors. A blue light means that a PokéStop is nearby, a green light means it’s a Pokémon, and a yellow light means that it’s a Pokémon you’ve not caught yet. All you have to do is press the flashing light button in order to perform an action. If you capture a Pokémon or get anything from a PokéStop, then the light will flash multiple colors. If you fail, then the light will flash red. You also receive notifications on your phone letting you know what happens every time you press the button — so it’s not just a random clicking of a button with no knowledge of effect.
The problem with the Pokémon Go Plus is that although it’s allegedly supposed to be less distracting, it somehow ends up being a nuisance. If you’re in a high-traffic area with, say, a bunch of PokéStops and Pokémon, the device will constantly vibrate. For something that’s supposed to make us feel less overloaded by the game, it kind of does the opposit. At the same time, because it’s connected via Bluetooth, my phone battery was draining just as quickly. It also detracts from the discovery aspect of the game. You no longer have to look at the landmarks or go searching for Pokémon. It’s just something that you play in passing.
There are some benefits to the device, though. It acts as a pedometer, recording the distance that you travel in a day. It makes it much easier to hatch eggs, because it doesn’t seem to shut off if you’re moving at high speeds. (It still recorded my distance traveled via train and while I was driving. When I finally opened the app, I was able to hatch my eggs.) It’s also less likely that you’ll get that annoying “This PokéStop is too far away” message on your phone if you’re playing on the bus or on the train, because it only requires a simple click of a button, and you can rack up on items much quicker.
I thought that, you know, maybe the device was going to spark my interest in the game again. But having used it? Probably not. I think the fad’s faded, and it’s not worth $35 if you’re not an avid player. However, if you’re still on the path to becoming a Pokémon master and are solely in it to collect critters, the device is worth the investment. Gotta catch ‘em all, right?