- “Pokémon Go” is making some changes that make it easier for players who might be stuck indoors amid the coronavirus pandemic to catch ’em all.
- The in-game “incense” item, which attracts Pokémon to your location, will last for an hour – dovetailing with a general increase in the number of Pokémon you can find in the wild.
- Developer Niantic has also cancelled its monthly Community Day event, which would have seen Pokémon trainers come out in droves on March 15th.
- It’s a logical way to help discourage behaviours that could spread COVID-19, the coronavirus disease. But it’s also a notable change for a game that’s always positioned itself as a game about exploring the world around you.
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For the first time since it launched in July 2016, “Pokémon Go” is making some big – though temporary – changes that actually cut down on the amount of walking that players have to do in the quest to catch ’em all.
It’s part of developer Niantic’s response to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease. With health authorities around the world recommending practices like social distancing and self-quarantining as key to stemming the spread of the virus, it’s easy to see why Niantic might want to encourage “Pokémon Go” players to stay home.
- Niantic is cancelling the next iteration of its monthly Community Day event, which was slated to be held on March 15th and offer players a higher chance to catch a rare, “shiny” iteration of Abra, one of the titular pocket monsters.
- “Pokémon Go” players will be able to buy a one-time bundle of 30 in-game incense items for one Pokécoin, the game’s unit of currency – a steep discount from its normal price. Plus, it will work for an hour, up from half an hour normally. Incense summons Pokémon to spawn all around the user, meaning you don’t have to walk.
- More Pokémon will spawn in the wild, again meaning that players have to do less walking to find monsters.
- Pokéstops, the real-world points of interest that give players useful in-game items, will give players gifts more frequently. Players can give these gifts to each other, and opening them grants even more items, as well as Pokémon eggs that can hatch by walking.
The blog post says these changes are “effective starting now until further notice.”
It’s no surprise that Niantic would take this step: “Pokémon Go” players often find themselves in parks, museums, and shopping malls in search of rare monsters and useful items. That’s especially true of the monthly Community Day events, where players team up to hunt that month’s featured Pokémon and fight in 20-player raid battles against powerful bosses. Those kinds of behaviours aren’t necessarily compatible with controlling the spread of coronavirus.
Niantic also previously postponed a big “Safari Zone” event slated to be held in St. Louis later in March.
Still, Niantic has long said that “Pokémon Go” is first and foremost a game meant to encourage people to get out, get exercise, and explore their neighbourhoods.
Even a recently-added battle league mode, which lets Pokémon trainers battle each other and boost their rank for rewards, requires players to walk 3 kilometers for the right to battle five times. In that light, it’s notable that “Pokémon Go” would get changes designed to help people stuck in place, however temporary they might prove to be.
And while “Pokémon Go” may not be the phenomenon it once was, it still has a dedicated fan base: A recent analyst estimate pegged the game at generating $US900 million in revenue from in-game purchases alone in 2019.
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