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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Players Are Pissed Pokémon Go Rolled Back Social Distancing

A promo image for Pokemon Go showing a trainer looking at gyms off in the distance.

So close, yet so far away.
Image: Niantic

One of the most popular pandemic-inspired changes to Pokémon Go was the doubling of the distance from which players could interact with gyms and Pokéstops, making those features easier to access without venturing out into the wild. Yesterday, with Covid-19 transmission levels spiking throughout the U.S., Niantic rolled back that change, causing many to pledge not to play until it’s reinstated.

Initially announced back in June, yesterday’s rollback of Pokémon Go’s double-distance tweak is no surprise. What is a surprise is how little developer Niantic seems to have listened to players, who’ve been raising a fuss over the proposed rollback for over a month now. Ever since Niantic’s June announcement that changes would be rolled back at the end of July, starting with the U.S. and New Zealand, Pokémon Go players have been taking to Reddit and Twitter to try and get Niantic to change its mind. Now that those changes are live, players are even more upset, as it looks like their voices went unheard.

With Covid-19 cases on the rise once more and the growing threat of the Delta variant, many feel it’s too soon to start encouraging players to go out into the world and start socializing again. A Change.org petition launched shortly after the announcement has gathered more than 130,000 signatures from players who feel that reverting the distance changes hurts more than it helps. Others point out a developer update from last November that suggested the increased distance to interact with gyms and stops might be a permanent change.

Many also see the rollback as a major blow to Pokémon Go’s accessibility. Disabled players, like Redditor Shadowbox22, were pleased when the distance changes were initially implemented, as they were suddenly able to access stops that were otherwise out of their range of movement. Now those stops are out of range once more, severely affecting their ability to enjoy the game.

I’m in the same boat. When last year’s changes were implemented I could suddenly access the gym and Pokéstop across the street from my apartment complex. I spend most of my time in a hospital bed in my home, and suddenly being able to farm items from the stop across the street meant I could catch Pokémon without having to spend real money on Pokéballs and other supplies. Since the change went live, the gym and stop are now out of reach. I can’t continue playing at this point.

The Pokémon Go Reddit is filled with people complaining about the change. Players are lamenting not being able to reach their usual gyms and stops from their home, coffee shop, fitness center, et cetera. And while there are players who support the reversion of the distance changes (“It’s called Pokémon Go, not Pokémon Stay”) more seem to be lamenting the rollback.

Kotaku has reached out to Niantic regarding player reactions to the distance rollback, but have yet to hear back as of this writing. For now, the best advice I can give to affected players comes directly from the game’s Reddit. If you’re upset about this change and feel like Niantic has not been listening to its players, delete the game and stop playing. Maybe falling player numbers will work where raised voices have not.


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