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Things are changing once again in the world of Pokémon GO. This week, Niantic has addressed the features and bonuses it added to Pokémon GO due to the global pandemic courtesy of COVID-19. These features, which have been referred to as “temporary” in official announcements will come to a 16-month end for some Trainers. 

Shared on the official Pokémon GO blog, three features will be removed as a “test” for Trainers in New Zealand and the US after Pokémon GO Fest 2021:

  • Incense effectiveness: Over the past year, Incense effectiveness was increased to attract Pokémon to you more frequently, even if you weren’t able to leave home. After the change, this effectiveness will be set at the standard level when you’re stationary and increased effectiveness will kick in when you are moving.
  • Buddy Pokémon and Gifts: Previously, your Buddy Pokémon brought you more Gifts each day, up to five gifts at once and up to three times a day. This was because we knew Trainers were running low on supplies like Poké Balls and berries to help them catch Pokémon. As we move to encouraging Trainers to play outside more, they can continue to receive supplies from spinning PokéStops. After the change, the frequency of these gifts from Buddy Pokémon will be reduced.
  • PokéStop and Gym interaction distances reverted: Previously, PokéStop and Gym interaction distances were increased, to enable people to engage from further away. After this change the distance will revert back to the standard distance, when it makes sense in different places, though may be increased during future events and as part of certain features.



In their place, the following features will be added and active until the “Season of Discovery” which ends on September 1st:

  • Receive up to two free Raid Passes per day from spinning Gym Photo Discs.
  • Benefit from increased Incense effectiveness while moving.
  • Be guaranteed gifts when spinning PokéStops so long as they have not reached their maximum gift inventory.
  • Receive 10x bonus XP from spinning a PokéStop for the first time.


In the same post, Niantic reiterated which features are staying:

Bonuses introduced last year that we are planning on keeping

Some of the changes that were introduced in the past year resonated well with our Trainers and will provide continued value as countries and regions begin to open back up. These changes will remain as standard parts of the game for the foreseeable future, some of which were previously announced:

  • 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.



These changes and the blog post’s URL title – post/hello-world-pokemon-go/ – fall in line with a post made by Niantic CEO John Hanke last month. Published on Niantic’s site, the post titled “Looking Forward to Say Hello World”, discusses changes Niantic made due to the pandemic, but also looking forward to in-person gameplay:


Thankfully, finally, times appear to be changing. While globally there is still much progress to be made, there is genuine hope now. We can look forward to brighter times once again.

This is a new and exciting chapter for all of us. At Niantic, it means we can start looking at ways to bring people together again in the real world, through gameplay adjustments, in-game events and finally in-person events.


The announcement has received mixed feedback online. Fans have pointed out that these bonuses have been made the game more accessible to a variety of players – i.e.: those who have a chronic illness and/or disabilities, live in rural areas where PokéStops and Gyms are limited, etc. – and the recent concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant. Given that the removal of these features will be a “test” for players in the US and New Zealand, Niantic could always reimplement them based on user feedback and player data. 


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Written by Jennifer Burch

Illustrator, designer, writer and big Nintendo geek, you can find Jennifer with an N3DS within reach 24/7. As the oldest of three, she has survived many Mario Party, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart sessions intact in addition to getting her brothers hooked on some really weird games. (Cubivore anyone?)