Pokémon Go’s high-profile players have called on developer Niantic to reconsider its decision to remove the game’s expanded interaction area, which was implemented last year when the pandemic hit.
Influencers, YouTubers and community leaders have today used their significant footprints on social media to share an open letter to Niantic and explain the reasons why they believe the game’s extended interaction distance should remain, several days after it was released in the US and New Zealand.
The list of reasons includes being able to play while it is longer socially distanced, and keeping the game extra accessible to less skilled players. Other reasons listed include being able to play further away from the public for personal safety reasons, and further away from businesses or landmarks to avoid congestion.
In short, players have become accustomed to playing with the game̵
Niantic, for its part, has said it wants Pokémon Go to return to a stage where it encourages safe personal encounters that trigger interaction between players, as well as encouraging greater exploration and more games outside.
Here is the letter in its entirety:
Dear @NianticLabs @PokemonGoApp @johnhanke @Pokemon,
The Pokémon GO community has been waiting patiently for answers in recent days, but unfortunately many trainers have passed away. We seek your attention and respond as society really needs it now. #HearUsNiantic #PokemonGO pic.twitter.com/mpcJtJI9Jo
– BrandonTan91 #HearUsNiantic (@ brandontan91) August 5, 2021
In June, Niantic released a roadmap for how the many pandemic bonuses would end, change or be made permanent, with some new short-term “exploration bonuses” for the regions that would first lose the pandemic bonuses. It also warned players that they would first move New Zealand and the US to this category, in late July, with other areas to follow “in a staggered manner when it makes sense for every place in the world”.
But the change in interaction radius has been a turning point, with a negative response only intensifying this week as the US and New Zealand saw the changes live in the game for the first time (and, as some players have pointed out, COVID cases in the US continued to rise ). Through this, Niantic has not taken up the matter further.
ZoëTwoDots, a popular Australian Pokémon Go YouTuber, is one of several high-profile players who say they have stopped spending money on the game until Niantic acknowledges the fan mood and reconsiders the matter. The same streamer PkmnMasterHolly and Brandon Tan, the world’s most famous Pokémon Go XP grinder, have said the same thing.
Cancels hosting raid this week. We are not hosting Dialga Raid Hour on Wednesday on Twitch. I do not support giving Niantic more money while ignoring us. @NianticLabs if you want me to continue to offer raids to the community, you can talk to us.
– PkmnMasterHolly #HearUsNiantic (@PkmnMasterHolly) August 3, 2021
Today, the case is starting to get regular coverage in places like The Guardian, while the hashtag #BoycottNiantic is gathering steam among mostly US-based Pokémon Go players on Twitter. Many players share pictures with slogans such as “Pokémon No”, and encourage others not to play or spend money today in protest.
Who else can be behind this? ?? #PokemonGo #BoycottNiantic #PokemonNoDay …… I can! pic.twitter.com/AOUketUUQ7
– Masterful 27 TL47 ?? #HearUsNiantic (@ Masterful_27) August 4, 2021
But not everyone has been so critical – and in fact there has been criticism of the response from some fans aimed at individual Niantic developers. “This community is getting SUPER toxic in the name of a seemingly good cause,” wrote the hugely popular player Mystic7, which has 2.11 million subscribers to YouTube. “Call on my community to keep me cool and in a good mood.”
Will these calls to action make a difference? It’s hard to remember once when so many of the game’s popular players have been so strong on a particular theme. That said, the game’s often guarded developer seems particularly determined on the decision to reduce the interaction radius, and has continued to continue with its busy summer schedule without commenting further until now.
It feels likely that Niantic will wait and see exactly how meaningful a reaction to this week’s changes can be among the total player engagement and spending before deciding on the answer. Meanwhile, it’s also hard to imagine today’s “boycott” – on a quiet Thursday between big events in the game with little to spend money on anyway – which has a significant impact on Niantic’s long-term and very lucrative bottom line.
“As we announced in June, we are introducing new exploration bonuses for players in the US and New Zealand, and we are removing or changing some of the bonuses introduced last year,” a Niantic spokesman told Eurogamer today when asked for comment. “People can check Today View in game to see what specific bonuses are available to them. We will continue to monitor health and safety guidance related to outdoor activities.”