Opinion: Niantic’s Plan for Pokémon Go Won’t Work


After consistent warnings that change was afoot, Pokémon Go developer Niantic has finally dropped the statement players all feared – changes are coming to Remote Raid Passes. For those who missed it, Niantic announced that the cost of a single raid pass would almost double, and there would be a new limit of five remote raids that could be completed each day. They claim raiding remotely has come to dominate how people interact with the game, and they want that to change. Despite their best wishes though, I think they’re somewhat missing the point.  

We all remember the heyday of Pokémon Go. We all have memories of finding rare Pokémon, sharing the experience with strangers, and that unbridled sense of joy of participating in something special that, for a time, seemed to completely overtake the globe. Although popularity dipped in the years to follow, that sense of community continued until the pandemic hit in 2020.

I’ve talked at length before about how the pandemic forced the game to adapt, and how walking back those changes that so many came to appreciate and accept as normal was always going to be a nearly insurmountable challenge. Despite being a feature introduced out of necessity, remote raiding opened raiding to people in rural areas, those with accessibility issues, and those who didn’t have time to hop in a car to drive to a raid location. It was a feature met with universal adoration from the player base, but it likely initiated the downfall of local raiding groups.

I used to be part of a vibrant Pokémon Go raid community in my suburb. The Messenger group was constantly pinging, with meetups for legendary raids happening dozens of times throughout the day. These people became close friends, almost like a second family. We were people from all walks of life; people of different age groups, ethnicities, and gaming experience; people who had almost nothing in common except for a sense of community and a love of a little mobile game. I understand Niantic wanting to bring that back to the game. But I think that Niantic is overlooking a fundamental issue with that:

Those communities are mostly gone.

At least in person.

Whether directly the result of Remote Raid Passes, a diminishing player base, changes in people’s willingness to travel to play, or a combination of them all, large community groups simply aren’t nearly as prevalent as they once were. Sure, they can still be found in larger cities, but the number of suburban groups isn’t what it used to be. My once-thriving group is now barely active at all, and since moving to a new house, I’ve not once seen multiple people playing the game together. I’m sure countless others can share similar experiences. The simple fact of the matter is that the way people play Pokémon Go has changed, and that’s not going to be reversed just because Niantic wants it to be. Rather than accept that and make the best game experience possible, they’re closing their eyes and barrelling on through. 

These changes to remote raiding are enormous changes to the game that they warned were coming for years. Players have been vocal that entire time that they did not want these changes. In addition, the sale of Remote Raid Passes was making the game more profitable than ever before. It makes such little sense to insist on a move that is going to result in dropped revenue and in angering your entire player base. 

That is until you remember that at the end of the day, Niantic is more a tech company first and a game developer second. The location data collected from players moving about and interacting with the real world is a valuable commodity, and they collect far less of that when you play their games from your couch. Even if their altruistic pursuits of seeing a return of that in-person community element of the game are legitimate, you would imagine this has to be a motivating factor behind a move that no one else seems to want. 

Instead of rising to the task of creating compelling reasons encouraging people to raid in person, they’ve gone with the approach of merely restricting the way most people prefer to play. We’re yet to see the much-touted damage reduction for remote players, but if this move fails to move the needle the way Niantic hopes, it’s not hard to imagine that change following in the not-so-distant future. 

It’ll all be for naught though. The destruction of remote raiding won’t magically reform groups that broke apart years ago from lack of activity. It won’t help those in rural communities without enough people around to take down a legendary Pokémon. It won’t help people with mobility challenges participate in raid battles. It’s unlikely to motivate those who didn’t travel to raid before the changes and only chose to more actively raid thanks to the ease of access afforded by Remote Raid Passes. No, the far more likely scenario is that those people will simply choose to spend their time and money elsewhere. You don’t have to look for long at the response to the announcement online to see that this is the path many are choosing.

Punishing your player base won’t revive an aspect of your game that has been lost – it’s only likely to erode it further. People will only accept so much before moving on to other things. Niantic might want to focus on that before it’s too late. 

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About The Author
Andrew Searles
I like to write. I do reviews and other bits for @vooksdotnet. Still playing Pokemon Go. Will probably buy Resident Evil 4 again when they release it on my fridge.

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