I’ve been using the Nearby feature in Pokemon Go for a couple of weeks now, maybe longer. For those who’ve tried it, basically using the old “Sightings” system it showed Pokemon that were in your area but with Nearby it shows you which Pokestops they are near by.
One further difference that I’ve noticed is that it seems to have Pokemon from further away than the old Sightings system. For example I’ll see that there’s a Pokemon a few streets away despite having loads in my immediate vicinity (I live in a high spawn rate area).
At first this just seemed dumb. Why tell me about a Drowsee that is 5-10 minutes walk away rather than the half a dozen (if I’m lucky) in my immediate vicinity. However one of my criticisms of the game has been the lack of effort to hunt and find Pokemon. Having the game encourage you to go for a walk to find Pokemon is a good thing. Being told vaguely where to go is also good as it means that instead of walking around aimlessly (or my daily journey for work) it would be more focused in the pursuit of catching Pokemon.
Thinking like that, this is surely such a wonderful feature that really helps bring the game alive, right? Well no.
On my average walk to the shops, bus stop etc I will pass by about half a dozen pidgeys, several drowzee, a couple of horsees, an oddish or two and plenty zubats & spearows. For me these are the sort of Pokemon that you might walk on by, especially if the street is busy. Frustratingly these are also the Pokemon that dominate my Nearby list. If I wouldn’t stop to catch a zubat, I won’t walk a few streets over to catch one. There’s probably one that I can catch when sat on my sofa!
What I feel the Nearby feature ought to be is taking their tracking system, which I quite like, and letting you filter on Pokemon that you’re looking for. That way if I fancy stretching my legs and see that a 10 minute walk away is a Dratini, I’ll get off my arse and get some exercise whilst also catching a useful Pokemon.
The ability to track Pokemon that you actually want to catch, either to fill the Pokedex or for candy, seems integral to what Pokemon Go should be. The game really ought to be encouraging players to go hunt for the rare and interesting Pokemon but instead you just seem to stumble on them. The Nearby feature is a step in the right direction but whilst it is full of crappy pidgets and zubats, it still isn’t enough.