Pokemon GO Revamping Gyms, Adding Co-op Raids

In celebration of its anniversary, Pokemon GO is undergoing some major changes. Before you get too excited, no, player-vs-player battles aren't among them. Gyms, though, are about to get more accessible, and you'll soon be able to team up with friends to go on raids against mega-powerful Pokemon.

Image credit: Niantic.

The gym overhaul will only launch for select players today and roll out to everyone else in the coming weeks. Developer Niantic is hoping it will turn the feature into something that's interesting for everyone, rather than just players at the tippity top of the food chain. Here's how it works: Gyms will soon have six slots that can be filled by one team's Pokemon, and Pokemon presiding over gyms will have a new stat called "motivation". Even if you can't knock a rival team from their throne, their individual Pokemon will lose motivation over time and as a result of defeats, temporarily lowering their CP. So basically you'll be able to aid in chipping away at them, if nothing else.

Image credit: Niantic.

However, members of the controlling team can raise Pokemon's spirits with berries, making both sides of the equation a cooperative effort. For your efforts, you'll be able to earn gym badges, which you can level up to potentially get better items at PokeStops and gyms. On top of all that, gyms are getting spinnable "photo discs" (a la PokeStops) in order to hopefully alleviate some of the problems faced by players in less densely populated locations.

Raids, meanwhile, should be arriving in "the weeks ahead", first to select players as a beta. They will allow you to team up with nearby players of any team in hopes of bringing down Pokemon too powerful for any individual to knock unconscious and stuff in a ball. Raid events will also occur at gyms, temporarily superseding usual gym shenanigans and sending Pokemon back to their trainers. When a raid boss appears, up to 20 players will be able to battle it at once. If you bring it down in five minutes, you'll get a shot at capturing it. You will, however, need a "raid pass" in order to participate, and you can only get one a day from gyms... unless you're willing to fork over some cash to get a premium raid pass from the in-game shop.

Image credit: Niantic.

During E3 last week, I got to try out a raid, and while I can see the appeal of endgame content in Pokemon GO, the whole thing was a bit too chaotic for my tastes. As I darted around to avoid the raid boss' (a Gyarados with its CP jacked to high heaven) attacks, friends' Pokemon often obscured my view, and all the effects on screen caused slowdown. In light of that, it's good to hear that Niantic plans to take its time with the roll-out, because I'm not sure raids are ready for primetime just yet.

Pokemon GO players have decried the lack of an endgame for nearly as long as they have had a game to play, and these new features at least give them options. It will be interesting to see how much lasting appeal they have, though, as well as how other long-awaited elements — such as legendary Pokemon — tie in. As Pokemon GO's initial mega-success proved, it's one thing to get people curious; it's another to keep them coming back.


    I'm sure the four people who still play will be thrilled.

      They've still got millions of active players don't they?

        Yeah. It's like the Nintendo articles before the Switch released. It was 'edgy' to say something about how little people play it.

        Yeah, all the gyms near me are constantly changing hands, pretty sure there's still heaps of us active. It simply doesn't have the same pervasiveness as when the game was new. Nothing strange there.

        5 million as of April. Activity peaked two weeks after launch and has been in decline ever since. Current activity is 83% below peak and only 0.7% of the total install base is active on any given day. That kind of decline is unusually steep for a F2P title. Not trying to be edgy, 'four people' was obviously hyperbole but realistically the game is in a bad state.

          Most of the people that I know playing it (including me until a foot injury) would not play much during the week, maybe one night, but then do a 4-5 hour or two on Fri/Sat/Sun. We would often see others playing and this one old dude we would run into all the time.

          From FB there are meet ups that run a lot but I'm not terribly interested in attending those.

          Basically the active per day metric is not a great measurement for how people play this game.

            The DAU and MAU figures people have managed to glean from financial reports suggest that of active users in any given month, the average user logs in once every two weeks (ie. users active in the month contribute to only two daily activity figures in that period, on average). That concentration is likely to be higher in urban areas and much lower in regional areas.

            Where do you live, if you don't mind me asking? Australia apparently has a higher than usual population for the game but is almost entirely concentrated in the capital cities.

              Given that most of Australia's population is concentrated in the capital cities, and Niantic's "places of interest" database they built through Ingress is also concentrated in big cities, this is not at all surprising.

              If I didn't live in a capital, I'd probably find the game a lot less interesting and stop playing.

                All well and good for Australians, but there aren't that many countries that have a similar demographic distribution and this is a global game.

                  While Australia might be unusual in most people living in state capital cities, is it that unusual for the majority of the population to live in large cities?

                  Given the way the places of interest data was compiled, I suspect anyone in an area of population concentration is going to have a better time in the game than those out in the country. That doesn't seem Australia specific.

                  @jamesh I'm not sure what you're arguing, exactly. My point was that darren likely finds active gyms because he's living in a capital city. Australia has unusually high urban populations (90% live in urban/suburban areas). Most countries above us on the list are either city-states (eg. Singapore, Monaco) or developed islands (eg. Malta, Bermuda). Even major first world countries like the UK (83%), the United States (82%), France (80%) and Germany (75%) are significantly lower. Globally (this is a global game, after all) population distribution is around 55% urban.

                  The reason I pointed it out is because people in urban areas don't have as much problem with the way the game is designed, even a dozen other people in a 5km radius is enough to play around. Gym distances aside (some people reported having to travel 40km to the nearest one), low spawn rates in regional areas creates a bad experience for people who live there. It's not like it would cost Niantic anything to fix, it was a bad design decision from the start.

          The game was so widespread and outside the norm it doesn't make much sense to use the install base as a concept for how it is going well.
          At the end of the day pretty much any game would kill to have 65 million people play it each month and be making 2 million in revenue per day.

            I'm not just going by install base. I noted the average active user logins in a post above, around twice a month. The $2M figure you mentioned was from a Sensor Tower report back in November when the DAU figure was around 6.5 million. It seems currently to be around $1.2M, assuming Android and iOS customers pay roughly the same amount.

            I'm not suggesting Pokemon Go isn't financially successful for Niantic, just that by F2P standards the company has squandered one of the largest mobile playerbases into one of the steepest loss of player retention I've seen. Player complaints about the game being poorly designed, having no substance, devouring bandwidth and battery, and Niantic pushing players away by shutting down useful tools like maps aren't exactly recent news and they shouldn't be surprising. They've lost a ton of players they didn't need to.

              Not discounting any of that and as you say they have squandered what could have been astronomical. The only thing I disagreed with is "the game is in a bad state".
              It might not be where it could have been but it is happily ticking along. They are pulling in new sponsorship, have a large number of regular player and are currently rolling out content to try and keep those players entertained.

                Fair enough. I don't want to risk the edit bug but I'm happy to revise that as "relatively bad state".

    It is still a grind simulator, and doesn't alleviate the limited high pokémon selection. Alternatively, bring in proper pokémon mechanics, and take out the button mash.

    Without cheating you can't "catch them all", there isn't any way to turn a small town into a fun Pokémon Go spot, and I can't just pick a caterpie and level it up to kick arse.

    I don't mind the gym changes anything at this point to add in 'gameplay', but it still locks out the 14 year old with a limited set of ~200cp pokémon. Who'll never hold a gym against a 30 year old nerd who spends the days driving around town. Cheating aside, the game needs tiers so everyone can run a gym, and battle it out depending on your level class. The kids at school should be able to band together a gym set with cp50 pokémon and not have to compete against cp4000 opponents.

    I'm lvl26 and haven't battled a gym for almost 8 months, it isn't worth the time it takes, doesn't have any payoff, and the next guy who comes along takes it from you.
    If you want the game to be social, how about simply adding in in-game communication between players, or being able to identify other team members in the area. Or even better a proper pokémon tracker. OR OR a wide spread of all pokémon in every location so I don't have to travel by car to catch something other than an Ekens or Rattata....
    Actually the more I write the more I see the game is broken at its core.

    I'm still an active daily player, but I have to agree with Zombie. This game could have been anything. Unfortunately Niantic seem extremely inept and reluctant to listen to their user base. They focused their energy and resources into the wrong areas and now we have an app overrun by cheats. As I continued to soldier on through the levels on my way to 40, I watched an army of players drop off around me. Those remaining, like myself, cling to the hope that a revamp including some of the initially promised game play will rejuvenate Pogo otherwise it will rapidly make its way to the app cemetery.

    Niantic claim 65 million active monthly users but this figure is grotesquely boosted by the bot accounts used to fill maps.

    I'm going to have a shot in the dark here. My guess is pokemon go is still a Nintendo IP. So they probably put some restrictions on niantic on what they can and cant do at certain points. Possibly to insure that Pokemon go doesnt compete with a mainline pokemon product they invested million into.

    Let alone the marketing issues it would cause if both products hit the news with updates.

    Maybe the only time pokemon go will get really good is when nintendo dont have a mainline pokemon product to market but they still want to keep pokemon and pokemon profits rolling in, in between games.

    Could you imagine if pokemon go was more popular gameplay wise then a mainline pokemon game? It would cause Alot of issues for nintendo.

    That's my guess anyway. Id love pokemon go to actually be competitive, strategic and good.

    So while walking around on my lunch break, I noticed that there are more gyms now. I guess that is to compensate for the reduction from them holding 10 pokemon down to 6.

    Thinking about it some more, the probably reduction in strength for gyms is probably a good thing. Where I live, level 10 gyms can stick around for a long time. If you are lucky enough to have a pokemon on the gym, then it gives a nice steady income of coins. If it is owned by your team, but you don't personally have any pokemon stationed there, then it may as well not exist. And if it is an enemy gym, it often doesn't feel worth the effort to try and knock it down.

    The changes as described sound a lot like how Ingress portals work, with low level players being able to make a small contribution and high level players making large contributions, and everyone progressing.

    I do wonder what these changes will do to the supply of free coins into the game though. The old system essentially let established players get the same benefits new players have to pay for, with not much opportunity for someone to transition from one group to the other. I wonder if they'll do away with it entirely?

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