[Update: Live] Niantic considers adding options to explore and raid from home in Pokémon GO
Pokémon GO began its journey in July 2016, building upon Niantic’s Ingress and the infrastructure the game put in place. Much like Ingress, Pokémon GO focused on exploring real-world locations to play the game. The initial response to the game was historic, as it fundamentally changed how geolocation-based games, as well as AR-based genres, are experienced by the public. While the focus has always been to go outside, there may be many reasons why someone cannot go outside — which is why we saw a great increase in activity on our threads that discussed location spoofing. Niantic clamped down on the idea of playing the game without moving, and one of the first steps it took was to block rooted devices (usually a pre-requisite for location-spoofing) from entering the game, and more recently, check aggressively for even hints of root or modifications. Now, COVID-19 health advisories have enforced the ideas of social distancing and staying indoors. Consequently, Niantic is being forced to rethink how players enjoy its geolocation and community-focused games in such difficult times. The company is now considering allowing players to explore areas and do Raid Battles with other players from the comfort of their homes.
In an announcement post titled “Embracing real-world gaming from home”, Niantic, Inc. has shared its product roadmap with a focus on enabling more ways for players to play its portfolio of games from inside their homes, in the coming weeks. Pokémon GO’s Adventure Sync feature will get improvements that will make it work even better with indoor movement and activities. The game will also see an enhancement on “in-game virtual social features” that will enable players to stay in touch when they can’t meet in real life (though this could be hinting at a Discord collaboration). The post further goes on to say that “you’ll soon be able to team up with friends and take on Raid Battles together in Pokémon GO from the comfort of home“, and “we’re also looking into how we can help players virtually visit and share memories about their favorite real-world places until they can once again visit them in person“.
Do these changes mean that Pokémon GO will officially provide a way to spoof your location? We don’t really know since the wording is up for interpretation. The announcement explicitly confirms the upcoming ability to participate in Raid Battles together — which is needed because 4-star and 5-star Raid Battles cannot be successfully completed by a single player, by design. Raid Battles occurred at Gyms on the map, which corresponded to a physical location in real life. So there will be some form of location manipulation feature at play here. However, you may not necessarily be able to virtually run around the world and catch Pokémon as one could through location spoofing apps.
Curiously, Pokémon GO showed a very strong week-over-week growth of 67% for the week beginning on March 16. The game grossed $23 Million in gross revenue in the week, accounting for 13% of all total revenue earned in 2020 for the game. Downloads also spiked, with 1.6 million first-time installs over the week of March 9.
Despite the increase in activity and revenue, COVID-19 has forced Niantic to rethink its gameplay, and one can hope that the company has finally realized that moving around may not be a feasible option for many — COVID-19 or otherwise. Niantic did make changes earlier that made it easier to play the game indoors, such as introducing a new GO Battle League for PvP battles across the world, reducing walking requirements in-game, and deeply discounting in-game items to make it easier for players to play the game without needing to move out too much. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Ingress also received similar tweaks, offering an alternative gameplay style when community-play is not entirely possible. These changes are, however, temporary, as Niantic does mention that it will return back to its original vision once the pandemic has passed. We hope Niantic receives enough positive feedback to consider making some of these changes permanent.
Update: Remote Raiding arrives on Pokémon GO
Niantic has unveiled the new Remote Raiding features that are now live on Pokémon GO, allowing players to enjoy the game from their homes. The list of changes is as below:
- With a Remote Raid Pass, you can access Raid Battles you can see on the Nearby screen from wherever you are.
- You’ll receive a bonus Field Research task daily without having to spin a PokéStop.
- As you run low on Gifts, your Buddy Pokémon will venture to nearby PokéStops and bring some Gifts back for you to send out to your friends.
- You’ll be able to power up your Pokémon to the desired CP by using all the required Candies and Stardust at once.
- After using a Star Piece, Lucky Egg, or Incense, you’ll be able to use more of the same item to extend the item’s effect beyond the usual 30-minute limit. No more waiting for an item effect to expire before you can use another one!
- Look out for other updates, including improved battle-screen design.
Remote Raiding is currently restricted to the Gyms you can see on your screen, so you are still restricted to your immediate locality. Players can raid remotely by using a new item called Remote Raid Pass, and there can be only a few remote raiders in every raid battle party. Right now, remote raiders will have the same attack power as location raiders, but in the future, Niantic will lower the attack power for remote raiders so as to disincentivize this in favor of the original “go-outside” playstyle.