Niantic's adding at-home gameplay to Pokémon GO and its other games to help with isolation

The company is responding to calls for people to stay home as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

Portland Press Herald/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

Pokémon GO's greatest strength is, for the moment, also its greatest weakness. The AR game encourages people to get outside and explore the world around them in order to catch virtual Pokémon using the camera on their phone. But as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, officials around the world are pleading with people to stay at home and isolate themselves to reduce how rapidly the virus can spread. Niantic, the developer behind Pokémon GO, is responding by adding more ways for people to play its various titles inside and around the home.

"We have always believed that our games can include elements of indoor play that complement the outdoor, exercise and explore DNA of what we build," Niantic said in a blog post on Monday. "Now is the time for us to prioritize this work, with the key challenge of making playing indoors as exciting and innovative as our outdoor gameplay."

Increasing nearby content — Among other changes being made to Pokémon GO, Niantic says players can now track their steps indoors with Adventure Sync so that walking around the house or doing chores will count towards game achievements. It's also enhancing in-game social features so that players can participate in Raid Battles with friends from inside their homes. The walking requirements for GO Battle League, meanwhile, have been reduced to zero, so you can literally battle from your bed.

Niantic makes a handful of AR-based games beyond Pokémon GO, including Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Ingress, the first game it ever released. Across all its titles, content is overlaid on the physical world and users must go out into their surroundings in order to find it. At least in the short-term the company is increasing the amount of content that's physically near players so they don't have to venture far from home, though we expect the usual outdoor-encouraging fare will be returned to the games as soon as its safe to venture out again.

Last week the company announced it will soon be launching an in-app social feed for Pokémon GO where players can stay up to date with information about future events, bonuses, daily streaks, and other developments. If you're not a Pokémon trainer, aspirant or otherwise, we can recommend a trip down video game memory lane.