Not content to let Fortnite have all the fun in New York City this weekend with its World Cup, Niantic has organized what is almost certainly the largest Pokemon GO event in the game’s history, both in terms of its impact on the game itself, and the real-life work they’re putting into promoting it.
Fans, myself included, have been asking for a Team Rocket invasion in GO for years now, and finally, its here, and kind of everything I ever hoped to see from it, and then some.
The game component of the Rocket event has Rocket Grunts taking over Pokestops where you battle them, try to rescue one of their Shadow Pokemon by capturing it, and then you can save it by Purifying it (or leave it Shadow and badass).
But Niantic is going the extra mile with a campaign that spans their social media presence (all its profiles have been blacked out by Team Rocket) and is spilling into the real world.
Niantic has been posting chronicles of actual, real-life Team Rocket grunts that they’ve photographed running around New York City, vandalizing Pokemon GO signs and billboards, culminating in the landing of a real-life Team Rocket balloon.
The extent of this campaign is really just…hiring two actors and a photographer and a balloon operator, but it’s reaching millions of players with Niantic’s GO social media presence, and is just a fantastic marketing campaign tie-in for the in-game event.
I love these Rocket photos, as they feature them using paper maps in NYC like doofuses:
Typing in an…evil manner and using Team Rocket Brand red paint to deface Pokemon GO signs:
The actual implications of this in-game are that Team Rocket has taken over a huge amount of Pokestops in the city, and there is currently a countdown to some sort of event tomorrow with Niantic telling everyone to cheer on trainers in New York City. Speculation is that this may end up being some sort of Ingress Portal-like takeover that may spread to the rest of the game after this initial test in NYC.
I am genuinely amazed with how much Pokemon GO has continued to grow and evolve, no pun intended, these past few years. I was originally concerned that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite would divert focus from GO, but WU has sort of sputtered while GO is stronger than ever. And now that it has Team Rocket invasions, we could be headed to all kinds of NPC battles in the future, turning this from a mobile variant to in effect, a full-on Pokemon game in time.
Stay tuned for whatever is happening tomorrow, and whatever IRL tricks Team Rocket gets up to next.