Niantic is doubling down in its efforts to get Pokémon Go Community Days back to their pre-pandemic splendor. But not everyone is thrilled at the idea of mingling with other Trainers out in the wild.
Following March's in-person Pokémon Go Community Day meetups, Niantic is tweaking subsequent events, starting next month. The April Community Day (opens in new tab) is being cut down from six hours to three in the name of getting Trainers outside and mingling.
Paired with February's removal of the Incense stationary bonus (opens in new tab), the developer is really hammering home the message that Pokémon Go is a social experience – and it's high time we all got back out there together.
The Pokémon Go Community Day adjustments are currently in the test phase. But it looks like Niantic is keen to return to the pre-pandemic state of affairs. And apparently, the players want that too, according to the developer.
Community Day Hours were extended from three to six in 2020 to cater to the new norm the pandemic ushered in. Since then, only a paltry 5% of Pokémon Go Trainers have been participating in the events for more than three hours.
We got a little taste of the return to the game's original Community Day format in January, with Community Day Classic (opens in new tab). Speaking to Dot Esports (opens in new tab), Niantic's Michael Steranka, Pokémon Go's live game director, said that there were "calls from Trainers to revert it back to three hours." Coupled with the data, it seems to check out. But not everyone is thrilled about the post-pandemic plan to 'get back to normal'.
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Some people are still citing Covid concerns, with April's meetup generating a thread on the topic (opens in new tab). As well as general health and safety being flagged up, some people are having to test regularly for their jobs and don't want the increased risk.
"Just a reminder to you Pokémon Go, we are STILL in a pandemic. Not all of us WANT to go out and be around people, even with masks and the increased spawn rate with incense was really nice for those of us who are trying to protect those around us," tweeted @bipanicmode (opens in new tab).
"Absolutely to this," added @jenhopediva (opens in new tab). "I play community day events for shinies. I don't want to encounter players in person. I work in film and must test negative to work. I'm not interested in paying and playing if I have to risk getting sick and not being able to work."
Others are lamenting (opens in new tab) not being able to participate because of their work hours. While accessibility is another key issue that Niantic's decision will have an effect on.
Its appreciable to see a brand new Pokemon in community day. Although with the reduced duration and nerfed incence It'll get worse for disabled people, people living in harsh weather conditions or rural areas who can't walk and play constantly. @NianticLabs #PokemonGOMarch 23, 2022
“For those Trainers who haven’t yet attended a Pokémon Go event in person, or experienced a Community Day in their neighborhood with other Trainers, I hope they’re able to suspend judgment on these changes and wait until April 23 to experience what it’s like for themselves," says Steranka.
"I bet they’ll find that having a real community around them during Community Day will make the entire event a helluva lot more fun.”
That doesn't seem likely given the reception on social media, but it's not set in stone just yet.
"If it becomes clear that a gameplay change significantly impacts those core tenants in a negative way, we review it with a cross-functional team and carefully put together a plan to course-correct," he adds.
"The vast majority of changes added to Pokémon Go over the past two years are here to stay: daily encounters, daily research tasks, Team GO Rocket balloons, the removal of the walking requirement in GBL, and PokéStop / Gym interaction radius, to name a few."
Steranka was keen to highlight that Community Days aren't just for shinies – they're about getting out and about and meeting people. Which was all well and good pre-2020, but people are understandably reticent about diving back into in-person gatherings; especially in regions where the government is putting an end to financial support for those that test positive, and no longer sending out free testing kits.
There's very much a push to get people back to work and school, with no more requirements to self-isolate if you test positive in some areas. People are traveling again, and so Steranka's outlook isn't extreme when put in that context.
“Long time Trainers will recall that the best part about Community Day used to be about going out and actually meeting your local community – not just the shinies you caught throughout the event," he says, apparently oblivious to the goings-on of the past two years.
“Our goal here is to bring communities back together."
It certainly seems to be a divisive decision, but Niantic is obviously eager to have Pokémon Go be played the way it intended. How the community has actually been participating in these events, and what their focus is doesn't seem to be a factor.