“Pokemon Go” trainers knew this day would come eventually. After Niantic introduced changes to make it safer to play during the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced a return to the traditional way of playing the game.
That doesn’t mean everything is going back to normal instantly. The changes will be rolled out in phases starting with the U.S. and New Zealand, two nations that have seen COVID-19 rates fall over the past few months because of policy decisions and the introduction of vaccines. Niantic will apply the changes later to the rest of the world based on local conditions.
The recalibration will start July 23 after Pokemon Go Fest 2021. The two biggest ones that will impact players will be the loss of extended distances to interact with PokeStops and Gyms. Players who could barely reach that stop across the street from their couch will now have to go outside and walk to the landmark to spin it. The other bonus that is leaving is the boosted incense effectiveness while stationary. That was a godsend when players were stuck at home, but now that coronavirus restrictions across the U.S. are lifting, players will now have to move to increase the power-up’s performance.
NOT TAKING IT WELLThe announcement of these two adjustments didn’t go well with some members of the community, but it’s one that makes sense coming out of the pandemic. “Pokemon Go” is about going outside and exploring the community. It’s a game that nudges players to be a little more active and meet others in person.
Although the changes will disappoint some, Niantic is trying to balance that out by introducing bonuses that reward players for spinning stops, in-person raids and walking around. One of the bigger changes is that players will get two free Raid Passes per day from gyms instead of just one. That will be a boon for those who are chasing after shiny variants or legendaries. Meanwhile, gifts will now be guaranteed from spinning stops if players haven’t maxed out. That’s a fairly nominal adjustment.
One of the more interesting tweaks is the 10x bonus XP from spinning a new stop for the first time. That’s a huge increase from the normal 250 XP that comes from that interaction. For those who are vacationing for a few weeks or exploring a new city for the weekend, it could be a huge boost for those on the road to level 50. Combine that bonus with a Lucky Egg and players can earn a quick 2 million to 4 million XP over a few days.
Unfortunately, most of these bonuses end in September, but Niantic says some may carry over to the next season. These changes fall in line with the seasons concept, where the company will introduce different perks every three months.
Beyond that, Niantic has learned lessons from the pandemic, and it is keeping some changes. Removing the walking requirement for Go Battle League was a huge move that the company made a few months ago. Having to walk to battle other players would have been particularly onerous for a feature that needs a big player base. Meanwhile, the changes to gifts are here to stay: Players can still carry 20 while opening 30 per day. The triple stardust and XP bonus from the first catch of the day is a nice touch, and it’s also staying.
WALKING A TIGHTROPEFor Niantic, this is going to be a delicate balancing act as “Pokemon Go” reverts to its pre-pandemic form. For every pandemic benefit taken away, the team will have to introduce a perk that makes up for it. All the while, they have to return the game to its core pillars, which is exploration, exercise and in-person social interactions.
That’s not going to be something that arrives overnight. The company is still tweaking how other parts of the game will work. Remote Raids is particularly important. It was a game-changer for Niantic, but it also introduced issues of its own as many players have come to rely on that in order to grab Legendary Pokemon and shiny variants from across the globe. With people now being able to raid safely in person, Niantic will likely have to create a stronger incentive for that face-to-face interaction. Remote raiding has meant fewer people at the gym and more people playing from home.
The other issue worth noting is how Niantic extended the length of the monthly Community Day. In the past, it was a three-hour event that one had to plan a weekend around. During the pandemic, the company extended the time of play to six hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and that has been a boon for those with busy schedules. Thankfully, July’s Community Day focused on Tepig is still six hours.
I hope the company keeps the extended Community Day hours. It works out better for people around the globe, who may be experiencing different weather conditions or other hardships. It’s a way to give them a window to play when their lives or the environment can’t accommodate it.
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Author: Gieson Cacho