Niantic have responded to Pokemon Go fans calling for the lockdown increased interaction distance for PokeStops and Gyms to remain.
To deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Niantic had implemented several features to the augmented reality game. These included lifting the walking restrictions to enter the GO battle league, and 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 defend for their team, and earn in-game currency the longer their Pokemon holds down the fort.
The game’s popularity in lockdown may have caused the odd issue. UK Essex Police faced backlash over their handling of Pokemon Go players breaking COVID-19 lockdown; with them making note of the offenders being men over 30 years old. 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; no walking requirement for the GO Battle League, more gifts that can be held and opened in a day, bonuses for catching your first Pokemon of the day, and more.
Things that would be returning to normal include the effectiveness of Incense to normal (when standing still), Buddy Pokemon bringing less gifts, and interacting with PokeStops and Gyms from the standard- much closer- distance. This is a reduction from 80 meters to 40 meters.
However, the latter seemed to outrage fans. #HearUsNiantic rallied fans who liked the extra distance more. 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.”
LeekDuck has called for the increased distance to be a permanent quality of life improvement; which they believe still fits with Niantic’s goal of the game encouraging exploration and walking. Others have called for an outright boycott if the change is not made, with a petition reaching over 170,000 signatures out of the aimed 200,000.
Niantic has responded to their fans, stating “Not every game has such a passionate, global player base that we’re fortunate enough to have.” Indeed, the first Pokemon Go Fest in 2017 saw servers being overloaded, with a class action lawsuit filed against Niantic for seeking travel reimbursement. The game also made $5 billion USD in lifetime revenue across five years.
“The health and wellbeing of players is our top priority,” Niantic states, “which is why we have implemented the new Exploration Bonuses in select geographies where it is deemed safe to be outdoors.” Niantic continues, espousing the health benefits of walking. “That said, we will continue to monitor health and safety guidance related to outdoor activities, and will make future changes if necessary.”
While Niantic are seemingly keeping the 40 meter interaction distance; they are also “assembling an internal cross-functional team to develop proposals designed to preserve our mission of inspiring people to explore the world together, while also addressing specific concerns that have been raised regarding interaction distance.” They will also be reaching out to community leaders to “join us in this dialogue.”
Their findings will be shared September 1st, at the launch of the next game season.
Pokemon fans had previously been outraged over Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield cutting many Pokemon from the game [1, 2]; as prior games had allowed players to transfer almost anything to the next generation. While Nintendo allowed cancellations on digital pre-orders, the games would go on to sell 17.37 million units as of May 2020.
As of March 2021, the Pokemon franchise- including anime, merchandise and more- has made $100 billion USD in lifetime sales; surpassing Star Wars and Marvel.
Image: Pokemon Go official website