In many countries, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been so successful that a significant proportion of the population is now considered safe. While many of us are using this opportunity to plan all sorts of travel and return to our pre-pandemic hobby of licking strangers, there's one more thing that can now return to how it was: playing Pokémon GO how it was meant to be played.
The Pokémon GO developers, Niantic, made quite a few changes to the mobile AR game in order to promote a "stay-at-home" way to play. This included bonuses for players that didn't require going to a PokéStop, a Remote Raid Pass, and various changes to items that made them work with less walking.
However, those changes are about to be rolled back, according to Niantic's latest blog post. "As some parts of the world are moving toward recovery," Niantic will be incentivising going outside again with new exploration bonuses that reward players for interacting with PokéStops and getting their step counts up. These new bonuses will be available from the end of July to the 1st of September, first in the United States and New Zealand, and then other countries "as it's safe to do so."
The full list of new bonuses is as follows:
- Players will receive up to two free Raid Passes per day from spinning Gym Photo Discs
- Increased Incense effectiveness while moving
- Guaranteed gifts when spinning PokéStops so long as they have not reached their maximum gift inventory
- Players will receive 10x bonus XP from spinning a PokéStop for the first time
You can check the Today View to see which bonuses apply to you at any given time.
Some bonuses that were added to encourage the stay-at-home way to play Pokémon GO will be removed, changed, or kept, depending on their popularity and relevance.
The bonuses that will be removed or changed are:
- Incense effectiveness will be reset to the standard level while stationary
- Buddy Pokémon will bring you fewer gifts
- PokéStop and gym interaction distance will be reduced back to the standard distance, though it may be increased again
- The balance of remote raids to in-person raids will be worked on to "find the right balance"
These bonuses will be changed in the US and New Zealand first, after the Pokémon GO Fest ends on the 18th July.
The bonuses that will remain in the game "for the foreseeable future" are:
- Incense duration will remain at 60 minutes
- No walking requirement for GO Battle League
- You can challenge any Trainer remotely with a QR Code, and the requirement to battle with friends remotely has been lowered to Good Friends
- The maximum number of Gifts you can carry in your Item Bag at a time will remain at 20
- Trainers will be able to open up to 30 Gifts per day, up from the previous 20
- You will continue to receive three times the Stardust and XP for your first Pokémon catch of the day
The Pokémon Company recorded its highest-ever profit in 2020, with Pokémon GO being a huge part of the success, so it's safe to say that the stay-at-home policies didn't end up hurting the game's popularity.
However, much like how the increased rate of remote work benefitted many employees with disabilities and accessibility issues, Pokémon GO's pandemic changes made the game more playable for rural and disabled players who were previously excluded by the game's requirements. Removing these accessibility options — even if they weren't intended to be accessibility options — will once again inconvenience those players, or potentially even force them out of the game.
Are you excited to get back into the physical exploration part of Pokémon GO, or do you wish they would keep the options for accessibility reasons? Did you only start playing the game during the pandemic, and you're nervous about the changes? Let us know in the comments!