blasting off again

Latest Pokémon GO event is brilliant for the game, but dumb for Team Rocket

What to know about those pesky Team GO Rocket balloons.

Niantic has added something to Pokémon GO that flies even higher than a Pidgeot: Team GO Rocket's hot air balloons. Even though it's Team GO Rocket's silliest scheme yet, it's a brilliant way for Niantic to keep players engaged with the game from the comfort of home.

Following almost a week's worth of teasers indicating the villainous group was up to no good, black hot air balloons with the Team GO Rocket signature "R" began appearing in the game Tuesday night as a new way to battle enemy trainers.

"With these Team GO Rocket balloon invasions, you can now battle Team GO Rocket anywhere on the map," the post on the mobile game's official blog reads. "We ask that you keep an eye out for balloons in the sky and battle the Team GO Rocket Grunts and Leaders piloting them." The accompanying YouTube video details how it plays out.

Balloons will appear on the in-game map at regular intervals for players Level 40 and up. If a player taps on one with their finger, it'll trigger a Pokémon battle against a member of Team GO Rocket. The brief video promises that they'll "show up wherever you are." Defeating them will free their Shadow Pokémon. Equipping a Rocket Radar will trigger encounters with leaders Sierra, Cliff, and Arlo. And wearing a Super Rocket Radar could trigger an encounter with the bigwig Giovanni himself.

This event essentially turns the balloons into a mobile PokéStop that's been invaded by a Team GO Rocket Grunt, only they're much less visible. You'll be able to see the shadow the balloon casts on the ground in the in-game map, but you have to pinch with your fingers to zoom out and see the balloon.

When do Team GO Rocket balloons spawn in Pokémon GO?

Data reported to Reddit from members of the Pokeminers Discord server claims players can encounter up to four balloons per day at the following intervals in their local time zone:

  • 00:00 - 05:59 — First
  • 06:00 - 11:59 — Second
  • 12:00 - 17:59 — Third
  • 18:00 - 23:59 — Fourth

Essentially, there's a chance that a single ballon can spawn within each six-hour block of the day. Players will need to check throughout the day to maximize their returns on this limited-time event, but at least they can do so from the comfort of their own home.

To celebrate the event, it looks like you can buy Team GO Rocket hats now.Niantic

How do you get a Rocket Radar and Super Rocket Radar?

The official Pokémon GO website has a handy guide to Rocket Radars and Super Rocket Radars for anyone looking to maximize their net gains with this event. The first six Team GO Rocket Grunts players defeat in any capacity will gain them a "Mysterious Component" each time. Once you have six, you can create your first Rocket Radar. From that point forward, you can buy another from the shop with PokéCoins or create a new one with the same method.

To acquire a Super Rocket Radar, you'll have to complete the "A Troubling Situation" and "Looming in the Shadows" Special Research tasks, specifically the step requiring you to defeat all three Team GO Rocket leaders: Sierra, Cliff, and Arlo. Equipping the Super Rocket Radar will normally lead you to several decoys, but for the purposes of this event, it looks like as long as you have this item, Giovanni should spawn.

What does this event mean for the future of Pokémon GO?

Before the Covid-19 pandemic forced everyone indoors for a prolonged period of time, Pokémon GO had an ongoing series of monthly quests that had the player fight different Team GO Rocket Grunts at various PokéStops and then confront Giovanni to claim a new Legendary Shadow Pokémon. This is the indoorsy alternative that's still feasible during the quarantine.

There's no telling how long this next evolution of Team GO Rocket's grand scheme will last, but with international Pokémon GO fest happening at the end of June, that seems like a likely time.

Pokémon GO fest runs from July 25 to 26.

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