Pokemon's relationship with customization has changed a lot in recent years. In Pokemon X and Y, players no longer had to choose between two default appearances; not only was their character physically customizable, but players could spend their in-game cash on all kinds of clothing and accessories to express themselves. Character customization has stuck in Pokemon ever since, including in spinoffs like Pokemon GO and Pokemon Unite. Pokemon GO seems to particularly love character customization since nearly every major in-game even introduces new clothing for players to buy these days. As far as liberty in customization goes, Pokemon GO has made some leaps and bounds for the Pokemon franchise.
However, in contrast, players have very little liberty to customize their Pokemon. Although Pokemon GO famously features a plethora of event Pokemon dressed in costumes who only appear for limited amounts of time, players can't actively dress up their favorite teammates. It seems like an oversight for Pokemon GO to only feature the aesthetically and mechanically limited event Pokemon when the game just celebrated its fifth birthday. Although there are signs that Niantic has hope for Pokemon customization in Pokemon GO, it has a long way to go. If Niantic is willing to put in the work, it could be an influential pioneer in Pokemon customization.
The State of Pokemon Fashion
At the moment, any Pokemon GO player who wants their Pokemon to have a unique look has to settle for event Pokemon. There's a lot of drawbacks to that, unfortunately. Event Pokemon can't evolve as a general rule, meaning many of these Pokemon are stuck at a low CP that makes them less than viable for battle. There's no inherent IV benefit to Event Pokemon either. The most that Pokemon GO players can do to create a team that's both aesthetically unique and mechanically impactful is to assemble a team of shiny Pokemon, but shiny hunting is no easy task. It's a shame that players don't have more liberty to express themselves through their Pokemon.
There's some sign that that could change, though. Pokemon GO added Furfrou, a Normal-type Pokemon from Pokemon X and Y, earlier in 2021. While Furfrou isn't particularly powerful, its aesthetics are vastly different from most other Pokemon. Players can spend Furfrou Candy and Stardust to give the Pokemon a haircut, a major selling point of this poodle-like Pokemon at its debut. Thanks to Furfrou's unique hairstyles, players could finally gather fashionable Pokemon that stood out from the crowd.
On the whole, Furfrou's various looks are the exception rather than the rule. Players have no shortage of clothing options, while Pokemon have next to no means to dressing to impress. However, there's still hope that Furfrou's hairstyle mechanic is a sign of things to come. It's possible that Niantic simply wanted to use Furfrou as a convenient experiment in Pokemon GO customization. Fans already know Niantic will use a similar mechanic for changing Hoopa's form soon, so it's clearly inching toward allowing players to change physical aspects of their Pokemon. Maybe a full-fledged Pokemon fashion update is on the horizon.
Pokemon GO's Customization Potential
There are lots of great ways that Pokemon GO could let fans dress up Pokemon. Adding clothing items for Pokemon, from hats to shirts to shoes, would be a delightful innovation. Since Pokemon come in so many shapes and sizes, Niantic could find a way to categorize each Pokemon by body type, determining what kind of clothes players can put on that Pokemon. From there, players could work within those limitations and still have vast amounts of freedom that are ultimately far more satisfying than an event Pokemon's single look. While players could obtain Pokemon clothes in the store, as usual, it'd be great if Buddies could bring their trainers accessories as gifts when players walk with their Buddy.
Of course, even if Niantic starts small with customization, it would go a long way. The mere option to put a small hat, a pair of sunglasses, or a headband on a Pokemon would be a huge innovation for the series. Historically, players can only dress up Pokemon for Pokemon Contests; fashion doesn't carry over into battle, and Niantic can operate on that principle too if it wants to keep Pokemon customization simple. For instance, maybe a Pokemon's accessories only appear when viewing that Pokemon in a Gym or while the Pokemon is walking with the player, meaning Niantic doesn't have to animate accessories in battle. Those limitations could strike a good balance between practicality and player freedom.
Pokemon GO's hypothetical customization revolution doesn't have to stop at clothes and accessories, either. For instance, it would be great to see Pokemon GO borrow Capsule Decoration from Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, letting players create a little fanfare or a colorful display when a Pokemon emerges from its Pokeball. Capsules would be a great way to add some excitement to Gym challenges and the Battle League. Maybe players could even put Pokemon GO's Gift Stickers on a Capsule as an extra way to send a message to whomever they battle.
The Next Step for Pokemon GO
Adding Pokemon customization to Pokemon GO would do more than relieve fans who dislike event Pokemon. It'd be a valuable new way to keep fans engaged long-term. Pokemon GO still has plenty of Pokemon to slowly add over the course of future events, but the game has to do more than add more monsters to stay remarkable. Wholly new mechanics and changes to its core functions are what really keep Pokemon GO feeling fresh. Pokemon customization would give fans a wholly new set of objectives that serve as one more reason to keep playing the game.
If Niantic plans to let players dress up their favorite monsters, it probably won't happen overnight. It wouldn't be surprising if Niantic introduced a starter set of small Pokemon accessories, then slowly rolled out more complex clothing options for Pokemon as it moved forward. After all, trainer customization did the same thing. Players started out with a small pool of pretty basic clothes, and then Niantic increasingly added flashier and wackier options to the wardrobe, like a plethora of goofy Pokemon-shaped hats. Pokemon GO could get a lot of Pokemon customization, and Niantic seems interested in the idea, but fans who want to play dress-up with their Charizards and Mewtwos should stay patient for now.
Pokemon GO is available now on Android and iOS devices.
The Fairy type was introduced to Pokemon in Generation 6, and it balanced battles and gave rise to some of the cutest Pokemon in the series.