Niantic has just revealed that it is revamping the way in which gyms work in Pokémon GO and introducing Raid Battles.

First up, gyms in the game are being comprehensively overhauled. For starters, it will be possible to claim items from gyms just as you would from a PokéStop. The other big news is that gyms will now feature six permanent slots that can be occupied by the controlling team’s Pokémon. Each monster assigned to these slots must be totally unique from the others - so you can't double up on powerful types - and opposing teams will battle defending Pokémon in the order they were assigned, not from weakest to strongest.

There's also a new motivation system which will see Pokémon that are defeated several times over receive a reduction in their CP, making them easier to defeat; once the motivation level hits rock bottom the monster will leave the gym and return to its trainer. In order to keep 'mon in tip-top shape, trainers of the same team can feed them berries to restore their motivation.

The upcoming update will also introduce Gym Badges, which will reflect your "contribution to a Gym’s success", according to Niantic. Battling, giving Berries to the Pokémon in the gym and spinning the gym’s photo disc will all increase your Gym Badge level, offering the chance to gain bonus items and rewards.

All of this is exciting enough, but the biggest new feature has to be the inclusion of Raid Battles, something that was hinted at in the first major trailer for the game a while back. A Raid Battle is a "cooperative gameplay experience" where players collaborate in order to take down Raid Boss monsters. Before a Raid Battle begins, all Pokémon assigned to the Gym are returned to their trainers and a large egg will appear above it, complete with a countdown timer. When this reaches zero, the egg will hatch and the Raid Boss will be revealed - but before you can battle it, you'll need a Raid Pass. 

One free Raid Pass per day will be handed out by visiting a gym, but there's a catch - you can only hold one in your inventory at a time (Premium Raid Passes will be available from the in-game shop, predictably). Up to 20 other Trainers can work together to defeat the Boss, and if you succeed within the five-minute time limit there's the chance to catch a super-powerful monster as a reward.

But that's not all! Defeating a Raid Boss offers unique rewards, such as new items which can only be obtained in this way. Rare Candies turn into a particular Pokémon’s Candy, which will be handy for powering up rare monsters. Golden Razz Berries increase your chances of catching a Pokémon you encounter in the wild, and can also be given to a Pokémon assigned to a gym to fully replenish their motivation. Finally, Technical Machines can be used to permanently teach a monster a new Fast Attack or Charged Attack.

Niantic will drip-feed the new update over the next few weeks:

To put these exciting changes in motion, we’ll be temporarily disabling all Gyms. Once the update has been rolled out to players around the world, Gyms will return. The Raid Battle feature will then be rolled out slowly over the next few weeks, starting as a beta, with raids visible only to a subset of players at certain Gym locations. Over a few days, we’ll invite more players to participate and enable raids at more Gyms around the world. Keep an eye on our social media channels for updates on when you’ll be able to start battling in raids.

Phew! That's a lot to take in all at once - are you excited about these new features?