It's been a difficult period for every video game company in recent months to get teams up and running from home. For Niantic, though, it's been even more of a challenge. Not only has it had to make a transition to working from home, but it's also had to rework and update its insanely popular mobile game Pokémon GO so its community could still enjoy it in lockdown.
In a recent interview with Venture Beat, Niantic GM Greg Borrud spoke about how the San Francisco developer was coping with its external work environment and the rapid adjustments it had to make to all of its games, including GO:
It’s been challenging, I’m going to be honest. The first priority was really looking after our employees, making sure that we could safely and properly continue to work and develop our products, while they’re dealing with [wild] stuff. The teams [have been] amazing, both our development team and our cross-functional teams. Then, it was thinking about the products.
When you have these real world games, you have to be able to be really nimble. So, I think the first thing that our teams did, which was just amazing, is that they went in and they did a lot of really quick changes to make sure that people could play from home. That was adjusting spawn rates, the types of things that spawn, [and] the types of activities that you do. Within hours or days, at the most, we were able to make these kinds of rapid changes.
Earlier on in March, Niantic rolled out its first GO update to counter the global pandemic. This included adjustments to habitats (with more pocket monsters appearing in the wild), incense packs lasting longer, and trainers being granted the ability to hatch eggs twice as fast in incubators. PokéStops also began dropping gifts more frequently and certain events were postponed.
More updates followed later on in the same month - with the cancellation of certain events and bundles requiring just one PokéCoin to purchase.
Spending soared from here on out - with Sensor Tower data revealing global player revenue in the game had reached $23 million on the 16th of March (an increase of 66.7% from the previous week). The reason behind it was unsurprisingly tied to the changes encouraging players to stay inside.
Have you played Pokémon GO since the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe? Have you spent any money on the game? Leave a comment below.