Pokémon Go developers Niantic recently decided to dial back the social distancing requirements in the game for players in the USA and New Zealand, and it did not go down well with fans.
While Niantic’s reasoning was that “hey in these two countries the pandemic is mostly over, right?”, fans were quite correct to point out that the pandemic is most certainly not over, and that forcing players to congregate more closely around Gyms and Pokéstops was a shitty, reckless thing to do. The hashtag #BoycottNiantic was created for users to voice their displeasure.
The volume of threats spurred the developers into action, and in response, earlier this month Niantic moved to establish a “task force”:
…we have heard your input loud and clear and so to address the concerns you have raised, we are taking the following actions: We are 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. We will share the findings of this task force by the next in game season change (September 1). As part of this process, we will also be reaching out to community leaders in the coming days to join us in this dialogue.
While that “task force” remains to share its “full findings”, they have already made one change, announcing on Twitter earlier today that having moved the Pokéstop and Gym range from 80m to 40m, they’re now reverting it back to 80m for everyone:
Trainers – we’re looking forward to sharing our plans as a result of the task force on September 1, but one thing does not have to wait! From now on, 80 meters will be the base interaction radius for PokéStops and Gyms globally.
Thank you to everyone who made your voices heard. We’ve heard you and understand that this has been a welcome benefit to many players. We’ll share more next week.
It’s welcome news, especially given the context of what’s happened in the weeks since the distance was originally changed. Take New Zealand, for example: chosen as one of only two countries to see the distance changes, given the country’s excellent Covid track record, in the last week it has seen its largest outbreak since the pandemic began, causing nationwide lockdowns and making any play difficult, let alone gatherings at 40m.