Pokemon GO is rolling back COVID changes and not everyone is happy

Pokemon GO Remote Raid key art. Image Courtesy Pokemon GO
Pokemon GO Remote Raid key art. Image Courtesy Pokemon GO /

When COVID-19 took hold and the United States and the rest of the world went on lockdown, Niantic has to adjust some of the gameplay mechanics for Pokemon GO. After all, it’s kind of hard to tell people to go outside and play or meet up with others for raids when the entire world is on lockdown or emphasizing social distancing measures to curb a deadly virus.

But with vaccinations now available, COVID cases leveling off or dropping across many countries and many restrictions now lifting, Niantic is ready to rollback many of the changes they had implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biggest changes being reverted include the increased Incense effectiveness, increased number of daily Gifts from your Buddy Pokemon, and increased distance for PokeStop and Gym interaction.

Incense effectiveness was originally increased to attract Pokemon to you more frequently, so you could still catch them even if you were unable to leave your home. While the increased effectiveness will still apply if you are moving, it’s reverting back to the standard level when you’re stationary. Niantic is also reducing the frequency of gifts from Buddy Pokemon, so if you need supplies like Poke Balls or berries, you’ll have to start spinning PokeStops again. Lastly, the PokeStop and Gym interaction distances are reverting back to the standard difference; however, Niantic says the distance could be increased during future events and “as part of certain features.”

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The changes will not go into effect until after Pokemon GO Fest in July and will first be applied in the United States and New Zealand before being slowly rolled out globally. And while the changes are made with the intention turning Pokemon GO back into a game built around “exploration, exercise and playing with friends,” not everyone is on board with going back to how things used to be.

There are multiple petitions circling around the internet encouraging Niantic to keep the increased Incense and interaction range intact. They argue that the changes benefitted those with physical disabilities and made the game much better. There are even multiple threads in the Pokemon GO subreddit complaining about the rollbacks. There’s even an argument to be made that the increased changes make the game safer as well as players would no longer have to cross busy streets or even trespass to reach certain areas.

Niantic hasn’t addressed any of the community’s feedback thus far, but I imagine they’ll