Good day, Pokémon trainers! Pokémon GO Game Director Michael Steranka is no stranger to talking about aspects of the game, recently giving an interview about the new type of event, City Safari. And now we have him on StadiumCast, a PvP focused podcast held by two prolific figures of the European PvP scene Inadequence and Lundberger, talking PvP and recent events.
StadiumCast always starts by allowing the guests to speak a bit about themselves. Which in this case brings some interesting trivia regarding the public face of GO. Steranka was apparently a fan of the competitive Pokémon scene from a young age running his own fan site, and even worked for Sony of Playstation fame. Before eventually being hired by Niantic to handle live events. Also apparently the heavy-hitting Fighting type Machamp is his favorite Pokémon. So there’s something to bring to the coffee table while with your friends who play Pokémon GO!
GBL Season 16 Move Update
The current season of GO Battle League brought a rather sizable move update, and the hosts and I’m pretty sure a lot of us were curious to know what brought about this decision now. The reason, according to Steranka, is that now was the perfect time to bring some big updates with the previous 2023 World Championship complete. This will help bring some fresh air going into the new season. He mentioned that he’s happy with the current place of Gligar and Lanturn, as both are still strong but not game-breaking.
He also mentioned how he was happy with the fact that there were about 11 unique Pokémon between the two 2023 World Championship Grand Finals participants. For those curious, there were 12 as both trainers were running wildly different teams.
How Does Niantic Rebalance the Game
With such a sizable update there is the obvious question of how the team at Niantic responsible for Pokémon GO PvP decide to rebalance the game every season. From what Steranka mentioned, it seems there is a ladder-based approach to this decision. As they look at not only just the most popular Pokémon, but rather the most popular Pokémon at every ELO range.
He also mentioned the idea of “Chase” Pokémon. Essentially, the Pokémon trainers focus on building up each season. Thus there is an attempt to make no Pokémon completely obsolete. As a new trainer might be disappointed to have their Medicham (as an example) completely useless by the time they are done building it up for the next season.
Steranka was asked which Pokémon he would recommend building for those getting into Pokémon GO PvP. He went a bit further into details by mentioning that players can benefit greatly by joining with their local community. Because other players may have a spare Pokémon with legacy moves that aren’t readily available. He also advised to focus on IVs less and just having a team running to get a feel for PvP. IVs matter less in the lower ranks and you could always build a better team later down the line.
As for which Pokémon he would recommend beginners, it’s these three:
In-Person Official Tournament Pokémon
There were increased spawns of Pokémon used by the 2023 world champ ItsAXN for the 2024 Pittsburgh Regional Tournament. Steranka mentioned that this was easy to accomplish as ItsAXN’s team didn’t have any legendary or mythical Pokémon. He also stated that these Pokémon will also be available in every Regional, International, and World Tournaments this season.
The reasoning for this is two-fold. To allow trainers who spectate even one tournament live to get access to these meta Pokémon. And because the team had noticed spectators for VG and TCG showed interest in the GO tournaments. And being able to catch the Pokémon they are seeing up on stage might encourage them to try out Pokémon GO PvP themselves.
Collaborating with Play! Pokémon
Play! Pokémon is the branch of The Pokémon Company in charge of hosting live tournaments. As Pokémon GO is a live-service game, there is the question of what happens if trainers have to choose between a tournament and a limited Pokémon GO event. Steranka assured that they have a ten-month seasonal plan for Pokémon GO events and try their best to collaborate with Play! Pokémon so trainers don’t have to choose one over the other.
Charge TM Scarcity
A rather hot topic on the PvP side of things is not having adequate Charge TMs. Steranka advised following a targeted grind. For example: Participating in tier-3 raids to get consistent TMs to complement what you get in GBL.
Balancing Different Types of Players
Within the Charge TM topic, Steranka mentioned how different players have different needs. Such as, GBL players requiring less TMs than those participating in limited-meta grassroots tournaments. Lundberger added to this by stating how she was focused on getting Pachirisu during GO Fest to build for PvP while her friend just transferred all of them.
Steranka stated that they try to keep every type of player in mind when creating events. But it isn’t possible to add something in every event to appeal to every player.
The 2024 official tournament season added the option to collect championship points in stores around the USA in order to qualify for the world championships. Steranka believes that this will be pivotal in encouraging new players to try out PvP as this system expands and people get together in local shops to learn from each other. However, he also mentioned 3 key challenges to make this come to fruition:
- Incentivizing Shops (by providing cash prizes for the winners as an example).
- Incentivizing Players to Participate. And
Osaka GO Fest and Yokohama World Championships
Steranka was asked if Osaka was chosen for GO Fest this year so trainers could potentially experience GO Fest and the World Championships in Japan around the same time. And the answer was a definitive yes. As a part of their 10 month plan they made this decision early on.
Safari Zone and City Safari
Steranka emphasized that the Safari Zone and City Safari are different events. The Safari Zone isn’t going anywhere. The City Safari is a new event inspired by the success of the city experience during GO Fest. With City Safari, Niantic can focus on the digital side of things to encourage live events within cities all around the world.
How To Provide Feedback
According to Steranka, trainers can provide feedback to the Pokémon GO team by participating in Post Live Event and In-App surveys. And they also do actually check social media as well.
Finally, another important method of improving the game is User Research. Niantic performs extensive user research to ensure they aren’t over-serving any specific type of player and there’s something exciting no matter your specific way of play.
What Determines the Themes of the Seasons
Every new Pokémon GO season has a theme. For example, we are currently in the Adventures Abound season focused on Paldean Pokémon. According to Steranka, the seasons are inspired by real-life events. As such, some are more specific and some are more generic.
Shadow Lugia and Shadow Mewtwo
The Gamecube game Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness had a unique black Shadow Lugia. And Inadequence asked if it would ever be available in Pokémon GO. Steranka added to this by saying he would’ve also liked to see game-exclusive Pokémon like these, especially the unique black and orange Shadow Mewtwo from Pokkén Tournament. But unfortunately, it seems, these are more difficult to bring to GO as they are close brands of the specific games they are from and their teams.
2024 Champion And Spice Pick Predictions
Every guest in the podcast is asked who they think is slated to win the next world championship and who is the new and/or relatively unknown player they are rooting for. Steranka believes Wdage has the highest chance of winning this season (He was in third place during the last world championships and won the first regional this season). Along with itsAXN who might come back for two wins in a row. As for the lesser-known pick he wanted to give a shoutout to Chemcoop, a personal friend of his.
As for whether Steranka will ever participate in tournaments, he is under contract to not do so but he did show interest in exhibition battles.
It seems Steranka will be focused on caring for his newborn baby for the next couple of months. So congrats to Michael on becoming a father! This might be the reason why he’s been focused on communicating with different content creators about what’s happening and what’s upcoming right now. I’ve covered the main topics of the podcast in my own words. So if you’re interested definitely go check out the full video linked at the start of the article.
Goodbye for now, Pokémon trainers. Priom-out!