This week in Pokémon GO news featured a “Hello World” announcement (and future update) for Niantic and The Pokémon Company’s mobile game. To get you up to speed, the announcement detailed that the following features would be removed for Trainers in US and New Zealand once Pokémon GO Fest 2021 concluded:
- 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.
These three features were some of the changes implemented last year due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Niantic has referred to these features as “temporary” throughout various updates and blog posts until September 29th, 2020 in a blog post titled Updates to temporary bonuses. Interaction distances for PokéStops and Gyms were lumped in a list of new and improved features, one being permanent to the game:
Over the past few months, we’ve been making temporary changes to Pokémon GO to adapt to the changing global environment. 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.
Granted, “foreseeable future” isn’t permanent, yet the same post was updated on November 19th, 2020 where the following was shared:
To continue adapting to the changing global environment, and in response to the situation becoming more difficult for many of our players, we are returning the following bonuses to the game beginning Thursday, November 19, 2020, at 6:00 p.m. PST:
- Incense effectiveness will be increased, now attracting Pokémon to you more often.
- Your Buddy Pokémon will now bring you more Gifts each day, up to five gifts at once and up to three times a day.
These bonuses are temporary, but they will remain in the game at minimum through June 2021. We’ll give at least one month’s notice before they change.
Combine a lack of clear wording and being a part of the game for over a year, these updates have been viewed as “quality of life” changes. In fact, because of these changes, it’s been easier for players that live in rural areas to play the game. Plus, it’s allowed for those with chronic illness, disabilities, and/or other health issues to play from the comfort of their own home.
Despite that these features would be removed as a “test” for US and New Zealand players and have new features swapped in (bonuses when spinning PokéStops and Gym Poto Discs), the argument for accessibility still stands. So, the Pokémon GO Community has taken to making multiple Change.org petitions addressed to Niantic. Currently, there are at least three active petitions – “Keep increased PokeStop and Gym interaction distance”, “Keep the gym/stop radius at it current distance in Pokémon Go”, and “Keep the increased spawn rate of Incense & increased interaction range of PokéStops/Gyms” – and their signature totals combined are 105,449 (at the time of this article publication). Even if you isolate it to one petition, it’s still the biggest petition addressed to Niantic on the site at almost 80,000 signatures.
Niantic has yet to address the petitions or fans’ comments and open letters shared on social media.
Pokémon GO Fest 2021 doesn’t start until July 17th, so there’s still time for Niantic to respond to feedback or even cancel the planned test. Until then, it’s a waiting game, and all the Pokémon GO community can do is to continue to keep the petitions circulating.
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