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Pokémon GO update introduces clever coronavirus quarantine workaround

Niantic implemented limited-time updates that allow Pokémon GO players to still play despite quarantines during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The COVID-19 global pandemic continues to have a tremendous impact on the gaming industry, having led to the cancellation of E3 2020 and other delays across the wider entertainment industry. Pokémon GO developer Niantic has issued an emergency update to the game in light of the coronavirus to limit players' need to venture out into public spaces. The game actively promotes exploring the world and interacting with others — which should be avoided during a pandemic — so Niantic has tweaked aspects of the game so players who remain in a fixed location can still make meaningful progress.

Polygon reported Thursday that Niantic was "prioritizing updates to Pokémon GO features and experiences that can be enjoyed in individual settings." A series of in-game changes went into effect on Thursday that will remain active in-game until "further notice." In other words, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, anyone who wants to can still play Pokémon GO and do so from the comfort of their home thanks to the following mechanics that have been implemented.

The changes make catching and hatching Pokémon a much quicker process thanks to discounts on items and shortening the time it takes to do things in-game.

Pokémon eggs will now hatch at a faster rate.

The biggest change at the forefront of this update is that the size of habitats and of Pokémon appearing have both been increased. This will allow certain types of Pokémon to appear in areas where they weren't available before, meaning players should have to travel significantly less. Additionally, several other discounts and rates were modified by Niantic to make the whole process of capturing Pokémon easier.

"Trainers can hatch Eggs twice as fast," Niantic also confirmed, so the number of steps required to activate an incubator has obviously decreased significantly. A bundle of 30 Incense is now being sold for only 1 PokeCoin and Incense's effects will now last one hour. That essentially means for a small amount of in-game currency, players can drastically increase the frequency with which Pokémon spawn.

March's Abra Community Day has been postponed as well, while other notable things like the Battle League and Genesect Special Research event are being modified so they can be "completed by individuals," not groups of players in the same place. Finally, for those avid Pokémon GO players that still plan to visit their favorite PokéStops, they will be dropping gifts at a higher rate than ever before.

All of these changes will minimize the need for travel in this coronavirus-stricken world, but Niantic is still cautioning players to prioritize their safety over catching the latest Pokémon. "While we’ve made these updates based on the current global health situation, we also encourage players to make decisions on where to go and what to do that are in the best interest of their health and the health of their communities," Niantic said in its statement to Polygon.

The Inverse Analysis

It's in the public's interest to not be participating in activities that could possibly spread coronavirus, but this might really hurt more activity-focused games like Pokémon GO. March otherwise would've been a very busy month for the augmented-reality game. Coronavirus' impact has been seen in almost every industry, from movie delays to the postponement of gaming events like GDC and E3. These are necessary steps for Niantic to take in order to sustain Pokémon GO during the coronavirus pandemic, but it remains to be seen if the game can truly weather the storm caused by this virus.

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