At the early levels, it’s relatively easy to progress pokemon go without spending money. Provided you’re not in a rural area with Pokémon lights (or, er, a black neighborhood), it’s pretty easy to keep growing Pidgeys and Pokéstops and gyms nearby for the resources you’ll need to get into game numbers go up.
However, with the game out for over a week in many regions, some of the first players to reach the higher levels of the game are running into a wall that stands in the way of that easy progression. In a detailed Reddit thread discussing his “late game” progress pokemon gouser Riggnaros discusses a few ways the game grinds progress to a halt once players reach level 25 or so.
For example, Riggnaros says that once you reach a level of “mid 20s”, low-powered Pokémon encountered in the game will have “an abnormally high chance of evading capture”. That means players have to start wasting a lot more Pokéballs to catch the most common monsters, which are essential to earn the experience points needed for that next level. To get enough Pokéballs to keep up with all those escaping Pokémon, you’ll either need to spend real money or spend inordinate amounts of time growing free Pokéballs from those slow-replenishing Pokéstops.
“From level 29-30 I went through over 1,000 pokeballs. Literally,” Riggnaros complains. “I can’t stress enough how ridiculous this would be for someone playing [without] spend coins on pokeballs (i.e. play the game [free to play] – that’s the majority).”
In addition, the total amount of experience required to reach the next level seems to increase exponentially as the game progresses. While level 15 only requires a few thousand experience points per level, by the time you reach level 30 you already need 500,000 experience points to raise your in-game status.
The exponentially increasing steepness of the leveling climb is particularly daunting, Riggnaros argues, because the game doesn’t increase the amount of experience the Pokémon you catch at later levels. “It makes no sense that a 10cp Pidgey should give the same XP as a 1600cp Scyther,” he writes. “Stronger, evolved, and rarer Pokémon should reward you with more XP, plain and simple.”
Twitter user Klik_Vox collected the data on the matter in a graph shows how it starts to get incredibly difficult to progress once you hit some of the higher levels of the game. According to those projections, a player maxing out on an extremely healthy average of 100,000 experience points per day would take more than a week to move from level 31 to 32, about a month to move from level 35 to 36, and a whole years from level 38 to 39 (we won’t know if these projections match reality until people actually start reaching these higher levels).
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this kind of slowdown in progress as a game progresses. Plenty of other games have similar systems to make it more difficult to level up as you move up the experience ladder. Free-to-play games, in particular, tend to crank up the difficulty to the point that old players end up feeling pressured to put down some dough in exchange for progress.
Still, this kind of almost insurmountable wall of experience can be frustrating for the crowds pokemon go players saw their numbers increase relatively quickly and easily (and without having to spend a lot of money on Pokéballs). As players begin to almost “catch them all” and maximize their Pokémon’s power, the prospect of slower progression can be a frustrating barrier that causes some early players to drop the game. That could be a problem for a title that relied on network effects and easy pick-up-and-play accessibility to become mind-bogglingly popular in a very short period of time.
The good news for Niantic and The Pokémon Company is that this is relatively easy to fix. If players begin to show frustration, a future version of the game may rebalance the experience curve to ensure more steady and attainable progress. By adding new Pokémon and new game features, players can continue to invest in the long term and scour the world for Pokémon.
Still, it seems that a change wouldn’t be a bad idea. As Riggnaros sums it up, “there’s a difference between designing a game that ‘takes years to beat’…