UPDATE 16/3/20: Pokémon Go maker Niantic has made further changes to the game to enable more people to play while self-isolating.
Go Battle League, the game’s major new PVP portion, will no longer require you to walk (or pay) to enter. This change has now been made worldwide, following its previous implementation in specific virus-hit countries.
For players organising their own tournaments – most notably, the Silph Road’s monthly cup – players will now be able to challenge each other from the Good Friends level (so you no longer need to get close and scan QR codes if you’re not levelled up as in-game friends). Entire tournaments can now be held remotely – which is a very good idea.
Both of these changes are now locked in for the next 30 days but “may continue beyond the 30 days, depending on global circumstances”, Niantic said via its Support Twitter account.
Pokémon Go’s invite-only EX Raids are also being called off the foreseeable future. No further invites will be sent out, although any remaining EX Raids yet to occur will still be allowed to run.
As much as it can, Niantic is clearly cutting down the need to organise large groups of people playing the game together (as seen by the cancellation of the game’s Abra Community Day over the weekend).
There is, as yet, no official word on the the fate of Pokémon Go’s Liverpool Safari Zone event – even if, in reality, its fate now feels sealed. Niantic has already postponed the St. Louis Safari Zone event and offered the choice of a refund, or the ability to enjoy for ticket holders to its in-game bonuses over the same timeframe but locally instead.
We’ve asked Niantic today if it has any further information on the status of the Liverpool event.
ORIGINAL STORY 13/3/20: Pokémon Go’s main selling point is the ability to roam around the real world, but now COVID-19 is out in the wild, it looks like that could be changing. I guess it’s the one thing Niantic doesn’t want players to catch.
In a blog post on Pokémon Go’s website, Niantic laid out some temporary gameplay changes which will make things easier for players to catch Pokémon from home. Players will be able to purchase a one-time bundle of 30 incense (which attracts Pokémon) for only one Pokécoin, with incense now lasting for an hour instead of 30 minutes. Eggs hatching distances have been halved, Pokéstops will drop gifts more frequently, and more Pokémon will start appearing in the wild.
The upcoming Abra Community Day has also been postponed – although Niantic is yet to announce which date this will be moved to.
Although Niantic didn’t explicitly link the gameplay changes to coronavirus in the post, the developer confirmed to Polygon that the updates were made “based on the current global health situation”, and would stay in place until further notice.
“We also encourage players to make decisions on where to go and what to do that are in the best interest of their health and the health of their communities”, Niantic added.
The changes don’t come as a complete surprise: some in the community had started calling for better solo gameplay options, while the St. Louis Safari Zone event was postponed earlier this week due to concerns about COVID-19. In the announcement post for the latter, Niantic said it would “continue to think of creative ways to keep our games fun and our communities strong, while still looking out for the safety and health of all of you” – and it seems that has taken the form of these gameplay tweaks. Aside from being responsible, I guess it’s good news for those who are too lazy to get out of bed on weekends. Who, me?