Back in early 2018, Niantic created Research Breakthroughs, a reward for doing field research tasks and doing a new one every day. Do 7 days worth of field research and you’re rewarded with an encounter with a mysterious Pokemon, which changed every month. First off you could get Articuno, then Zapdos, then Moltres, then the legendary doggos Raikou, Entei and Suicine, followed by the rather odd choice of Shedinja. If you timed your field research well enough, you could obtain four or even five of each Pokemon during the months in which they were available.
In December 2018, Niantic announced that, for December, you could get one of the legendary birds or beasts; Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Raikou, Entei or Suicine; as your research breakthrough reward.
At the end of December, Niantic announced that Lugia and Ho-Oh were added to the pool of potential rewards, with shiny forms to all but the legendary beasts.
Turns out, a lot of hardcore players weren’t too happy with that. According to more veteran players, they were tired of all these elemental Pokemon. They already had them all, either from the previous months’ research breakthroughs or via raids, which Ho-Oh and Lugia had appeared in consistently over the course of the weekend prior to Niantic’s announcement. They wanted to see the Weather Trio return, or perhaps more Generation 4 Pokemon, which have been coming out incredibly slowly. But more importantly, none of them wanted to risk getting another Suicine, which everyone has automatically deemed utterly worthless.
But the thing is, these research breakthroughs are amazing for two reasons: firstly it’s basically a free legendary Pokemon every week and it’s a lot of help for people who haven’t had a chance to get any of these Pokemon yet, because not everyone was playing consistently every month, and not everyone is capable of getting 5-10 people around to do raids.
One of those people is me. I actually have all of those legendary Pokemon… apart from Articuno. I started playing back in August when Raikou was the legendary Pokemon reward and I only managed to get three Raikous, all of whom served me well. But I missed every other opportunity to get Articuno. The legendary birds appeared for raids for a week, but I could never get people around to do Articuno. The one time I could have, I wasn’t invited. And frankly I’m still pissed off at my siblings for not inviting me, I was only down the road.
There’s a catch though. The reward you’re given in each research breakthrough is random. In December, I had a 1/6 chance of getting Articuno and, in 5 research breakthroughs, got 3 Enteis, 1 Moltres and 1 Raikou. In January so far, where the chance has decreased to 1/8 thanks to Lugia and Ho-Oh, I’ve received 1 Moltres and 1 Lugia.
There’s no balancing to ensure that I can actually complete my Pokedex before these Pokemon go away for a while. Luckily, I can trade an Articuno off my brother for the cost of 40,000 stardust, but how many people can really afford that? Very few. And I’m sure that there’s tons of people in similar situations, needing just one of the legendaries and missing out every time.
Other problems have also cropped up, but they’re not really issues now. For example, Sinnoh Stones, used to evolve Gen 1-3 Pokemon into their final Gen 4 forms, were guaranteed for… 2 weeks, before being a rough 25% chance. But now you can get them pretty regularly in PvP battles, so that’s not too bad.
Research breakthroughs otherwise are really cool! It’s something that gets you playing every day, and actually gets you doing tasks and things. And it’s a free legendary Pokemon for not that much effort! Well, mostly. Except for that time Shedinja was around. No one cared about that one because it doesn’t have the same unkillable-except-for-super-effective-attacks gimmick it does in the console games.
I’m hoping that we get new research breakthrough rewards soon though. As it stands, the 8 Legendaries thing is continuing until the end of February, and fingers crossed I’ll get an Articuno by then. Maybe we’ll see the Regi-daries or Giratina and Cresselia in March. Who knows?