How Nintendo Can Improve the Pokémon GTS

Back when the Pokémon Global Trading System (GTS) was introduced, it was hailed as a watershed moment in the game’s history. No longer were a player’s trading options restricted to their local counterparts and gated by whoever had a Link Cable handy—now, an ambitious Trainer could conveniently collect pocket monsters from all over the world. In theory, it was a brilliant move (and probably a necessary one).

In practice…well, it was still a brilliant move, but it came with a cost:

“Although being a well-meaning trade function, the GTS has come under criticism. Many traders ask for a legendary Pokémon, such as Mewtwo, in exchange for a common Pokémon, and some players request Pokémon at levels it is impossible to legally obtain that Pokémon at, such as a “Level 9 and under” Charizard.” —Bulbapedia, “Global Trade System”

Instead of being the liberating experience it should be, interacting with the GTS is more frustrating than anything else, as players find themselves  using a clunky interface to find Pokémon they can’t obtain because of unreasonable or impossible demands. It’s enough to drive people to take a chance on a random Wonder Trade rather than suffer through using the GTS.

So what can Nintendo and The Pokémon Company do to improve players’ experience with the GTS? After all, they can’t force players to stop asking for Enteis and Palkias in return for their precious Caterpies and Magikarps. They can fix some of the more-broken pieces of their interface, however, starting with the following suggestions:

(Note: While I made this list myself, I make no claim that these ideas are original. In fact, the idea in my first bullet point below is at least two years old.)

  • Allow players to query the system with the Pokémon they have, not just the Pokémon they’re looking for.

Pokémon Moon gifted me my first ever female stater Pokémon (a Litten), so I figured this would give me an advantage on the GTS—after all, everyone wants a starter Pokémon, right? Unfortunately, after breeding an army of Littens, it turned out that no one seemed to want a starter Pokémon in exchange for the specific monsters I was looking for. By my tenth fruitless query, I was shouting at my 3DS “Good grief, what can I get for a freaking Litten around here?!”

Having an option to search trade requests by the Pokémon you’re planning to offer gives players an accurate sense of the market they’re participating in, and may lead to unexpected-but-totally-welcome surprises that the player hadn’t considered (“Oh hey, I can get a Scyther for this thing? I’ll take it!”). It increases the odds of finding a successful trading partner, and thus increases the chances of a satisfying GTS experience.

  • Allow players to search for any Pokémon right from the start, instead of forcing them to type in the names of monsters that aren’t in their Pokédex.

The GTS’s “type to search” system has never made any sense to me. Anybody can look up a list of Pokémon on the Internet, so it’s not like you’re blocking people from obtaining certain Pokémon. All it does is slow me down, test my spelling abilities, and annoy me.

Instead, every Pokémon should be incorporated into the alphabetical search system currently reserved for Pokédex entries. Sure, it may take a little while to scroll through all the Pokémon that start with the same letter, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer than having to tap out K-a-n-g-a-s-k-h-a-n on the 3DS touchscreen every time.

  • Have a “secret” trade option that restricts access to specified trade offers.

One theory I’ve heard floating around is that part of the prevalence of unreasonable GTS offers is that players use the technique to transfer Pokémon between games, or set up a trade with a specific person. Since anyone can trade for a Pokémon offered on the GTS, demanding a king’s ransom for your Pokémon ensures that no one else will step in and steal a Pokémon you only intended to pass between your copies of Pokémon Sun and Moon. (While the Pokémon Bank takes care of this case in theory, a lot of players are either unable or unwilling to pay a monthly fee for that service.)

Instead, players should have the option to protect their trades by marking them as “secret,” keeping them from being included in public queries. Instead, searching for secret trades would require knowing a) the name of the Pokémon you’re looking for, and b) perhaps a four-digit passcode set by the trade offerer.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s no less secure than the current method of demanding legendaries for common Pokémon, and it reduces the number of crazy trade demands that clog the screens of normal users.

Of course, none of the above options keep people from posting unreasonable trade demands or guarantee that you’ll find the Pokémon trade of your dreams. They’d be a small step in the right direction, however, and perhaps help change the GTS experience of many players from frustrating to fruitful.