Niantic reverted some of the pandemic-era changes made to Pokémon Go in the US and New Zealand on Sunday, including reducing the distance you need to be from the physical real-world locations of Pokéstops and Gyms to interact with them. The company announced the changes in June and has decided to move forward with its plans, despite backlash over the changes.
The distance you’ll need to be from real-world locations is effectively halved as part of the new update, going from a maximum of 80 meters (around 262 feet) to interact with a Pokéstop, to the game’s original 40 meters (around 131 feet), according to Dot Esports. There were multiple reasons for Niantic to double the distance originally, from reducing crowding during a pandemic, to just making it a bit easier to collect items without theoretically having to leave your house. The change didn’t reinvent the game but players viewed increasing the interaction distance as a valuable accessibility improvement that’s now gone.
Niantic also changed the effectiveness of Incense and the number of gifts you can receive in-game from your Buddy Pokémon. As part of its changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Niantic made the pokémon-attracting Incense item more effective across the board, but now it’ll only be while you’re moving. Gifts from Buddy Pokémon were similarly boosted to up to five gifts at a time at up to three times per day as part of Niantic’s changes, but now the company says “the frequency of these gifts from Buddy Pokémon will be reduced” after the latest update.
Tweaks like these begin to bring Pokémon Go back to its pre-pandemic self, even if Niantic plans to keep some other changes in the process, like an increased inventory size. Remote Raids, the ability to participate in big battles with legendary pokémon without having to be there physically, are also sticking around. However, Niantic does plan to change the $0.99 a pop feature slightly: according to Niantic, “in the future, Trainers joining the Raid remotely will do less damage than Trainers joining in-person.”
Collectively, it seems the changes are meant to push players back out into the world and play more in person, which makes sense given Niantic’s bread and butter is collecting location data. The timing is just a bit unfortunate. COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in the US due to the delta variant, and finding reasons to gather in large groups to collect pocket monsters probably shouldn’t be high on anyone’s list.
You can see the full list of changes for Pokémon Go on Niantic’s website.