As previously reported, Niantic had implemented several features to the augmented reality game to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these included being able to interact with a PokeStop and Gym from a greater distance. These are real-life locations- typically landmarks- that players can interact with to earn in-game items. At Gyms, players can also leave their own Pokemon to earn in-game currency.
However, the lockdown bonuses were only ever intended to be in place for a limited time. Niantic had previously announced certain bonuses would be permanent as quality of life improvements, but the PokeStop and Gym interaction distance would be reduced from 80 meters to the usual 40 meters.
This outraged fans, with #HearUsNiantic rallying to keep the extra distance. An open letter by @LeekDuck proposed that it was not only safer for players (avoiding crossing roads or other risks, especially during the pandemic), but also aided those with accessibility issues or caring for young children, and avoided crowding locations for “non-Trainers.” A boycott petition called for 200,000 signatures, reaching 196,515.
Niantic responded that they would assemble a team to develop proposes to keep their mission of encouraging players to walk and explore, while addressing the concerns fans had. They would also be reaching out to community leaders to “join us in this dialogue.”
While their findings were intended to be shared September 1st (along with the launch of the next game season); Niantic revealed beforehand that the 80 meter interaction distance will be permanent.
Now, Niantic have shared their findings, and future plans. Along with the 80 meter interaction distance being a quality of life improvement, Executive Producer Steve Wang noted “Niantic has a lot of room to grow when it comes to communication with our players.”
In order to communicate better with players, Niantic will share developer diaries every other month (starting in October); sharing the developer’s priorities, upcoming events, and features. The Known Issues page will be maintained, and prioritized to bring “greater visibility into the status of existing bugs for Trainers.”
The community leaders will now be a greater part of the game, as Niantic will set up “regular conversations” with them. Niantic had previously spoke to over 30 of them amid the interaction distance issue.
Finally, after New Zealand’s sudden COVID-19 lockdown over one case, Niantic note that Seasonal Bonuses will no longer differ by region. Instead they will be set at the global level, and tied directly to the current season. Right now the Season of Mischief is seeing an uptick in Psychic, Dark, and Ghost-type Pokemon, and Research missions dedicated to finding the mythical Pokemon Hoopa.
In earlier news, Pokemon Go made $5 billion USD in lifetime revenue across five years. Even a pandemic could not stop fans; as UK Essex Police faced backlash in January of this year over their handling of players breaking COVID-19 lockdown. They had made note of the offenders being men over 30 years old.
Image: Pokemon Go official website