Angry Jigglypuff

Over the past few months, Niantic — makers of Pokémon GO — have been rolling back the changes they made to the game for players affected by the global pandemic (read: all of them). Yesterday, they specifically removed the increased interaction range for various points of interest in the US and New Zealand — the former of which is experiencing a surge in COVID cases.

The pandemic changes to Pokémon GO were focused on safety and accessibility, increasing the distance at which players could interact with PokéStops and gyms, and making sure that players weren't required to leave the house in order to obtain key items like the Pokémon-summoning Incense.

Pokémon NO
Image: @PvPnMe

While some of the features, like increased Incense duration and remote battles, will be kept in the game, the removal of many of the other features has drawn the ire of the Pokémon GO community — including some of its biggest names.

Trainers with huge followings, like Leek Duck, ZoëTwoDots, and Brandon Tan took to Twitter to express their discontent through a community-penned letter:

In the letter, the community members voiced their "disappointment" over Niantic's decision to remove the changes, specifically the reduction of the interaction range. According to the letter, the wider interaction radius contributed to a safer, more accessible, and more respectful way to play the game, which didn't require entering dangerous areas, trespassing, or blocking entrances.

"Trainers were given the impression this increased PokéStop interaction radius would be permanent," reads the letter, citing a November 19th blog update:

“Some of these changes will remain implemented for the foreseeable future, such as the ability to raid remotely, changes to the GO Battle League, and the increased distance at which you can spin Photo Discs at Gyms and PokéStops.”

A petition with over 160,000 signatures calls the increased interaction distance "one of the best changes [Niantic has] ever made, making the game safer to play and more accessible for all," and called for people to boycott the game and the company until Niantic responds. YouTuber ZoëTwoDots and Twitch streamer PkmnMaster Holly joined in the call for a boycott, with the former stating that she wouldn't be spending money in the game until Niantic agreed to keep the COVID changes, and the latter refusing to stream the game.

Furthermore to the issues addressed in the letter, the pandemic is actually not over for a huge section of society. New case surges have been reported in Florida, Iran, Thailand, and Turkey over the past two weeks, and many people have yet to be fully vaccinated. For most players of the game, it's either not possible to play the game as they used to, or it's still very risky.

Unfortunately, some of the boycotting and complaining has been directed at specific developers and community managers, and quite a few of the videos and tweets from the big names in Pokémon GO have asked their followers specifically not to turn their grievances into harassment.

Niantic gave the following statement to Eurogamer:

"As we announced in June, we're introducing new exploration bonuses for players in the US and New Zealand and are removing or changing some of the bonuses introduced last year.

People can check the Today View in game to see which specific bonuses are available to them. We'll continue to monitor health and safety guidance related to outdoor activities."

Have you been disappointed in Niantic's decisions? Are you boycotting the game? Let us know in the comments below.