Niantic recently made the controversial announcement that Pokemon GO will be removing some of the bonuses added to the game that made it more accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic (starting with the U.S. and New Zealand as of 1st August). This includes reverting the PokeStop and Gym interaction radius from the updated 80m back to just the original 40m. These changes are being made with the intention of “restoring the focus of Pokemon GO on movement and exploration” as some parts of the world slowly return to a sense of normalcy. The radius increase proved to be highly useful for many reasons apart from just the coronavirus however, and fans of the mobile game phenomenon are expressing their displeasure with the removal of the feature.
A change.org petition calling to “keep increased PokeStop and Gym interaction distance” has secured over 130,000 signatures, with no signs of slowing down. Many Pokemon GO YouTube content creators, some of which with amassed hundreds of thousands of subscribers, such as Reversal, The Trainer Club, and ZoëTwoDots, have also spoken up about the issue, threatening to boycott the game if changes aren’t addressed. “It was a clear quality of life change that was only fully realized because of a (ongoing) pandemic. It has provided accessibility to disabled players, safety to all players, and NEVER affected our enjoyment of exploration.” ZoëTwoDots
Pokemon GO is consistently played by millions of trainers around the world, and removing this overall positive update seems like quite a harmful decision. Not only does the extra distance help with reducing the spread of COVID with the rise of the delta variant, it also makes the game safer, more accessible to the handicapped, and prevents trespassing and loitering around businesses. Hopefully Niantic makes an active effort to listen to the community’s feedback following the obvious backlash.