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Pokemon Go developer to address distance concerns after community backlash

Pokemon Go
(Image credit: Niantic)

Update: Pokemon Go developer Niantic says it is working to address concerns over interaction distance after backlash from the community.

In a new blog post, Niantic said that it had rolled back certain changes made as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic in an attempt "to restore some of the foundational elements players enjoyed prior to 2020, and reward players once again for moving and exploring." Currently, the USA and New Zealand are the only regions to have had their gameplay restored to a pre-pandemic state.

However, Niantic says that it has heard the community's response to the changes "loud and clear." As a result, it will be "assembling an internal cross-functional team to develop proposals designed to preserve our mission of inspiring people to explore the world together, while also addressing specific concerns that have been raised regarding interaction distance." The developer will be contact community leaders to assist with that conversation, the results of which will be shared on or before September 1.

Niantic's message comes after a wave of criticism from players concerned that the decision to restore the interaction distance for Gyms and Pokestops - back to the original 40 meters rather than the 80 meter limit permitted in response to the pandemic - limited the game's accessibility and did not take into account player safety. Several high-profile players have called for a boycott of the game due to the changes, with a Change.org petition encouraging players to limit their spending garnering more than 160,000 signatures (via NintendoLife).

Niantic's blog post comes a few days after the developer confirmed to GamesRadar+ that it would "continue to monitor health and safety guidance related to outdoor activities."

Original story: Pokemon Go fans are expressing their concerns after the game's pandemic-related changes were rolled back in some regions.

Developer Niantic announced last month that it would be rolling back the changes it made to the game at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and would be offering bonuses to encourage players to start enjoying the game outside again. The rollback came into effect today in the US and New Zealand, but some players aren't happy with the change.

As well as offering players more in-game items, one of the most significant changes Niantic introduced at the start of the pandemic was to increase the distance at which players were able to interact with Gyms and Pokestops. Now those ranges have returned to normal, players are finding that they're no longer able to play the way they've become accustomed to. 

On the game's subreddit, user HorseOnSauce called out the locations that they used to be able to reach without leaving their apartment, asking "who is benefitting from the range being reverted," and stating that the changes "will be a pain for people with disabilities or for players in countries with ongoing Covid restrictions."

That message was echoed by user Shadowbox22, who said that "as a disabled player, the changes today came as a bit of a gut punch." They explain that a nearby Pokestop, which they used to be able to access from their backyard, is now too far away to interact with. Unable to access other locations on a regular basis, they say that "effectively, I can no longer play the game." 

Other users expressed concerns for their safety, or complained that shifting ranges meant that Pokestops no longer align correctly with the locations they're supposed to represent. Users in border towns in Canada and Mexico are also documenting bugs; since their changes are still in effect, they're able to interact with the game in America, despite the reduced range in the country itself.

Niantic made clear from the outset that it planned to review its pandemic-related changes. With the game's community on Reddit voicing its disapproval, and high-profile players announcing their intention to stop spending money on the game. Joe Merrick, webmaster of Pokemon community Serebii, says that "Niantic [has] taken a dangerous decision with the PokeStop distance removal during a worsening pandemic, a feature that helped people play safely, or just play."

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Ali Jones

I'm GamesRadar's deputy news editor, working with Ben T across our gaming news articles. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.