Pokémon Go players will have fewer opportunities to take part in the game’s Raids remotely (for “free,” anyway) starting next week. Developer Niantic announced Thursday that it plans to end the weekly distribution of cheap Remote Raid Passes that have been included in one-PokéCoin bundles over the past two years, when the company added the new gameplay feature to adapt Pokémon Go to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting on May 23, Pokémon Go’s in-game shop will no longer include Remote Raid Passes in weekly one-PokéCoin Event Boxes, Niantic said in a post on the game’s official website. Instead, that cheap weekly box will feature “a rotating array of items,” Niantic said.
In announcing the change, Niantic says it’s “excited to get back to playing together in person” and that it’s working on ways to “support players who have difficulty reaching Gyms” with “solutions such as tools for community leaders to organize local events and faster approval for new Gyms.”
The Pokémon Go maker also says it’s bringing new social features to its mobile game in the next few months. Those social features have been in testing in a separate, stand-alone app and accessible to select players of another Niantic game, Ingress, since early May. That social app lets players talk to each other and coordinate meet-ups directly through the app, which Pokémon Go players have typically done through outside services, like Discord, over the years.
While Niantic’s promise to make it easier for players to coordinate meet-ups and access to new Gyms will likely help make the removal of inexpensive Remote Raid Passes sting less, the loss of another pandemic-era convenience will surely cause some outcry. Players can still purchase Remote Raid Passes from the shop, but they cost 100 PokéCoins for a single pass, and 250 coins for a three-pack. Players can earn up to 50 coins per day for free by holding Gyms, or pay real-world money for bundles of coins.
Polygon sent some questions to Pokémon Go live game director Michael Steranka about the changes, and our email Q&A is available below.
Polygon: For players who aren’t using the external social features you plan to bring to Pokémon Go, can you expand on what you hope that will bring to current players?
Michael Steranka: Meeting up with other Trainers is an important part of the Pokémon Go experience, it’s partially what makes Pokémon Go different from almost any other game. We realize that for newer Trainers, or even veteran Trainers who have been largely raiding from home the past two years, those skills and habits need learning or re-learning. What we’re working on is a set of social tools and features that will empower Trainers to easily see where other Trainers are playing and congregating and to signal to others where they plan to battle or raid. So during Community Day, say you’re traveling to a new city and you want to meet up with local Trainers. You’ll be able to do that at-a-glance once these tools are ready. I should add that privacy protection is critically important to us, and all of these features will be optional and can be fine-tuned so you can decide who to share what with, and to what degree.
What’s the reasoning behind pulling Remote Raid Passes from 1 PokéCoin event boxes? Will there be other ways that players can acquire them, outside of the shop?
Our goal is to shift the balance back towards the fun of raiding together in-person again. Sales and discounts are really powerful ways to indicate to Trainers what types of game loops they should be focused on at any given moment. If there’s a hatching event going on, we may feature Incubators, for example. We want to leverage the 1 PokéCoin bundle to do just that moving forward, and use it to emphasize other types of gameplay.
This is why we’ve increased rewards for coming together in person to tackle challenging raid encounters. This is part of our process to return Pokémon Go to that key experience.
This doesn’t mean that remote raiding as an option is going away, as we recognize the convenience that it brings to players. Our intent is to bring back the joy that can only be experienced in person, like when you caught your first Lugia at a gym in person with your friends.
Note that with this change, there won’t be other ways to receive free Remote Raid Passes. It’s our goal however to provide a great value in the deals featured in the Shop for our events, and there’s a chance that Remote Raid Passes will be included in those bundles in the future.
What sort of items should players expect out of 1 PokéCoin event boxes going forward?
We plan to rotate a variety of things through, so it’s hard to say definitively at this point. That being said, the rotating 1 PokéCoin bundle first made its debut all the way back in 2020 and had many different permutations. Those past versions are good references for where the bundle will likely go moving forward.
Are any other changes planned for raids, such as the return of EX Raids or ways to make them more convenient for players who may not be able to find people to join them?
Absolutely, and the new Niantic social features I mentioned will play a big role here. I can’t reveal too much just yet as we have initial details coming out at our Niantic Lightship event next week, but coming later this summer Trainers will have the tools to easily meet up with others for IRL raid battles and more.