Pokémon GO bonuses for COVID pandemic going away at Niantic

Last March, at the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Niantic made a few changes and added assorted bonuses to Pokémon GO that would make it easier to play from home. These bonuses included increased range on PokéStops, improvements to incense, and the introduction of remote raid passes, among other things. Now, Niantic intends to roll things back to how they were a year and a half ago in Pokémon GO and remove the bonuses, despite the pandemic still being in effect. It’s starting with the United States and New Zealand before it implements it worldwide. Here’s what Niantic is taking away:

Over the past year, Incense effectiveness was increased to attract Pokémon to you more frequently, even if you weren’t able to leave home. After the change, this effectiveness will be set at the standard level when you’re stationary and increased effectiveness will kick in when you are moving.

Previously, your Buddy Pokémon brought you more Gifts each day, up to five gifts at once and up to three times a day. This was because we knew Trainers were running low on supplies like Poké Balls and berries to help them catch Pokémon. As we move to encouraging Trainers to play outside more, they can continue to receive supplies from spinning PokéStops. After the change, the frequency of these gifts from Buddy Pokémon will be reduced.

Previously, PokéStop and Gym interaction distances were increased, to enable people to engage from further away. After this change the distance will revert back to the standard distance, when it makes sense in different places, though may be increased during future events and as part of certain features.

Of course, Niantic will be keeping some of those bonuses, like incense duration (though not efficacy if you’re not moving) and the removal of the walking requirement for the Pokémon GO Battle League, among a few other things. However, the fans are understandably not thrilled at the prospect of losing other bonuses they’d come to rely on over the past 15 months, especially since it’s still dangerous for many people to be out in public.

The COVID-19 pandemic that spurred these changes on is a much bigger deal than a mobile game, so this all merits some perspective. Personally, I’d been enjoying the increased distance for PokéStops, as it meant I didn’t have to be right on top of a local landmark if it were in someone’s home or some other sensitive area. There’s still time for Niantic to change its mind on rolling back Pokémon GO bonuses, and I hope that it listens to the fans on this. As much as they were stopgap measures to keep people playing during a time when they were supposed to stay inside for the pandemic, these bonuses improved the Pokémon GO experience, and the game won’t be the same without them.


Dominick Ashtear

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