Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started last year, the developing team behind Pokemon Go, Niantic, altered several in-game mechanics to discourage people from going outside but keep them faithful to the game. These changes were well received, not just for their benefits but also for making the game more accessible to specific demographics. Now, Pokemon Go is removing the changes from the game, sparking a negative response from its gaming community.
The pandemic-induced changes were announced as temporary by the game’s developer, and last month, Niantic announced they would roll back the Pokemon Go in-game mechanics to the pre-pandemic settings. Now, according to the r/Games subreddit, the roll-back “test phase” has just launched in New Zealand and the United States, reversing many of the changes back to the original setting, making players extremely upset and concerned for public safety.
Despite the fandom’s feedback and several petitions aimed at the game’s developer demanding the cancelation of the roll-back, Niantic enforced many of the previously outlined changes, primarily affecting players in New Zealand and the United States. This includes various changes to the current Pokemon Go in-game mechanics, which initially aided social distancing during the pandemic. For example, PokéStop and Gym interaction distances will revert to normal, though Niantic announced that they might be increased in certain circumstances. Additionally, Incense effectiveness will revert to standard when the player is stationary, increasing only when the player is moving.
The shorter range to PokéStops is one of the significant factors that has incurred the Pokemon Go fandom’s ire. The increased range allowed people to practice social distancing and still get in-game items, like Poke Balls. This also allowed players with physical disabilities to enjoy their favorite game, which the shorter interaction range might’ve hindered. Unfortunately, by reverting those changes, Niantic is forcing players to get much closer to get the items, despite the rising cases of COVID in the US – which only defeats the purpose of the pandemic-induced changes in the first place. Not to mention that the roll-back now affects specific demographics’ ability to enjoy Pokemon Go.
The Pokémon Go gaming community is vast, and its majority disagrees with Niantic’s decision to roll back the game’s settings. Two major Pokemon Go subreddits, r/pokemongo, and r/TheSilphRoad are filled with fandom complaints regarding the roll-back. At the same time, Joe Merrick, the webmaster of serebii.net, an all-things Pokémon webpage, announced on Twitter that he would stop spending money on the game due to the change, encouraging others in the Pokémon Go community to do the same. So it would seem that World of Warcraft players aren’t the only ones protesting.
In the end, the changes introduced at the beginning of the pandemic were excellent quality-of-life improvements and features that allowed players to play Pokemon Go safely and let those who couldn’t enjoy the game to its fullest finally do so. Not only that, these changes helped the game thrive during the pandemic, generating almost $2 billion in revenue in 2020. Those earnings could be compromised in the future if Niantic continues to ignore their customers’ feedback and complaints regarding the current state of Pokémon Go.