As previously announced, Pokemon Go has begun to phase out the changes made to accommodate play during the COVID-19 pandemic. The adjustments have only come into place in the United States and New Zealand so far, and developer Niantic has described the changes as a test.
As the pandemic led to more people around the world finding themselves unable to head outside or feeling uncomfortable attending venues or large gatherings, Niantic introduced a raft of changes to allow Pokemon Go to be played more safely from within your home area. It was effective, with Pokemon Go pulling in nearly $2bn of revenue during 2020, and breaking $3.6bn in lifetime revenue midway through the year. As restrictions begin to ease in some regions, however, the changes are starting to be rolled back.
The biggest adjustments include the interaction range for PokeStops, gyms, and raid passes reverting to pre-pandemic levels. That means players will need to get out and about more to interact with the game, and Niantic is even offering “exploration bonuses” to encourage players to do so. Not all changes are being reverted, however. Details like gift carry/open limits, and the restrictions to challenging trainers remotely via QR code will remain in place.
The decision to implement these changes now has not gone down well among the Pokemon Go community however. Many cite rising COVID-19 cases in the US, and increasing concern over the delta variant of the virus. Many have said they don't feel comfortable playing in the way that's expected, effectively leaving them unable to play Pokemon Go at all.
I'm just going to put it out there— Joe Merrick (@JoeMerrick) August 1, 2021
I'm not going to be putting any money into Pokémon GO for the foreseeable future.
Niantic have taken a dangerous decision with the PokéStop distance removal during a worsening pandemic, a feature that helped people play safely, or just play.
It’s not just the pandemic that has led to players feeling upset about the changes. Whether it’s due to accessibility issues, or general safety, the increased ranges had allowed more people than ever to enjoy Pokemon GO. While Niantic is going ahead with the test in the United States and New Zealand for now, we’ll need to wait and see if the company commits to the phasing out entirely and introduces it to other regions of the world as well.