Earlier this year, Niantic added a large number of bonuses to Pokemon GO. Most of those bonuses went away. Covid-19 did not.
Back in March, Niantic made a bunch of changes to Pokemon GO that helped alleviate some of the grind and, more specifically, cut back on the amount of time people needed to spend outdoors in order to play and progress in the game. While many expected Pokemon GO would take a big hit during the 2020 lockdown, the game actually flourished thanks to a variety of changes that made the game far more accessible and welcoming.
Among those changes were the removal of a distance quota to participate in the PvP Pokemon GO league, a reduction in travel distance for hatching eggs, an increase in the effectiveness of incense, extra gifts from your buddy Pokemon and extra bag space for gifts, the ability to raid long-distance using Remote Raid Passes, longer bonuses from items, and many, many more.
On October 1, Niantic ended many of these bonuses. Hatch distance returned to normal, incense only worked when walking, and buddy Pokemon only brought gifts when you were almost out. To their credit, many of the temporary changes did become permanent: remote raids are still available, the battle league no longer requires walking, Pokestops and Gyms have a longer range, and the first catch/spin of each day has a 3x bonus.
The problem wasn’t so much what they were taking away, it was the message that it sent. The bonuses arrived to compensate for the restrictions placed on us by the Covid-19 response. Why are the bonuses going away when our behavior shouldn’t be changing at all? There’s still a deadly epidemic wreaking havoc, at least in the U.S., so what changed?
Last Thursday, Niantic updated the bonuses once again. In a blog post, they explained they were reverting the changes to both incense effectiveness and gifts from Buddy pokemon. Meanwhile, the reduction in hatch distance and long-distance trades will be coming back too, but only for special events. Niantic has committed to keeping these bonuses active until June 2021.
All of this back and forth begs the question: why aren’t all of these changes just made permanent? While conceived as bonuses to help with Covid-19 restrictions, they turned out to be incredible quality of life enhancements for the game. These bonuses breathed new life into the game and made the grind so much more reasonable. Why would they want to take them away?
A cynical explanation would be that Niantic gets to re-enter the press cycle every time they make an update to the bonuses. Good or bad, we’re certainly talking about it a lot. Once they make the changes permanent, perhaps we’ll be less grateful or willing to think of them as bonuses.
Personally, I’m just disappointed to lose some bonuses that were part of the game for so long. The faster hatch rate didn’t feel like an event, it was just part of the game for months and months and now it’s gone. Bringing it back for special events doesn’t feel, well, special.
I don’t expect Niantic will make all of the Covid-19 bonuses permanent, and I’m certainly grateful for the ones that are, but I wish there wasn’t such more back and forth about it. Pokemon GO Beyond seems to be a fantastic update, now we just need the temporary bonuses to become permanent ones.
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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