Niantic, developers of Pokémon Go, recently reverted several aspects of the game to pre-COVID settings. During the pandemic, players could spin PokéStops and place monsters in Gyms from 80 meters away. Now (and before the pandemic), the range is back to 40 meters.
To say this left players of the game upset would be an understatement. After days of complaining about the situation on social media and places like the Pokémon Go subreddit, Niantic finally responded to players’ concerns. Unfortunately, the company’s blog post did almost nothing to appease the angry player base.
Pokémon Go Has a Big Issue
This might seem like a tiny issue in the grand scheme of things happening right now (such as Apple’s current iPhone surveillance situation). But for players who rely on Pokémon Go for entertainment, exercise, and social interactions, a significant change to the game’s playability is a life-altering development.
Niantic says that it made the change to PokéStop and Gym range because it wants “people to connect to real places in the real world, and to visit places that are worth exploring.” That is the entire point of the game, so Niantic isn’t wrong in its stance.
There are a few issues, though. Most obvious is the fact that the pandemic is certainly not over yet. As much as we’d love COVID-19 to be behind us, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
Second is the fact that 40 meters were never enough. Players didn’t know it until the expanded range was implemented. At 80 meters, players could explore the world, but rather than crossing a busy street to get close to a PokéStop, they could safely spin it from the same side of the road.
My personal issue is more a matter of laziness; I’m fully willing to admit it. But there’s a Gym about 60 meters from my living room. I’m so close to the range, but just far enough that I can’t reach it. I used to be able to interact with the gym at any time, which kept me engaged in the game and coming back multiple times a day. Now I don’t even play anymore. It just feels disheartening to open the game and see a gym that’s so close and yet so far.
Decreasing the distance by half makes a lot of problems for players, and it’s not just a matter of laziness, as in my case. There’s the need mentioned above to cross potentially dangerous streets to get close enough.
There’s also a matter of trespassing. With the 80 meter range, players could spin stops and gyms without actually stepping onto anyone’s property (which has been an issue with Pokémon Go from the beginning).
And what about accessibility? The 80-meter range opened up the game to players who can’t get that close to a PokéStop due to mobility issues. And for gamers with social anxiety, they could get within range of busy stops and gyms while still maintaining a comfortable distance from other players.
What Are Some Solutions?
The obvious solution is for Niantic to simply reset the game back to its pandemic state. However, if what the company says about it hindering exploration is true, then Reddit user Redpooldead has come up with what I think is the perfect solution: make new PokéStops and gyms have the 40-meter range and ones you’ve already visited have the longer range. You’re not exploring if you’re spinning the PokéStop and gym that’s 60 meters from your home, so that argument doesn’t really work.
At the end of the day, it looks like Niantic has decided to keep the shorter range—at least until September. After that, it comes down to players speaking with their wallets. If you find that the game isn’t fun anymore with the shorter range, then maybe it’s time to stop playing. At the very least, it’s time to stop spending money on it, as that’s the only way the developers will hear the fans.
Niantic ended its post by saying, “Our goal is to build fun and engaging experiences that remain true to our mission, and we thank you for challenging us with thoughtful and constructive feedback,” and players are certainly doing just that.
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