The increase to maximum interaction distance were one of a raft of changes introduced to Pokémon GO in 2020, as part of Niantic's efforts to address difficulties faced by players of their augmented reality games in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Niantic had always indicated that many of these changes were only temporary, indicating when they were introduced that bonuses would remain "at minimum through June 2021" and that they would give at least one month's notice before they change. Since announcing their intentions back in June this year to walk back the increased interaction distance, the company has come under significant criticism from both players and the media for their decision to take this step as soon as that minimum period was up, and for doing so while the pandemic, and in particularly the highly virulent delta strain, continues to rage around the world.
The brief statement, which is reproduced in full below, makes no promises to walk back the interaction distance changes, and so is unlikely to satisfy many people who have participated in the #HearUsNiantic campaign. Indeed, with the promises being limited to a dialog with community leaders and an "internal cross-functional team to develop proposals" by September 1st, Niantic's seems to be more focused on attempting to alleviate player concerns rather than actually taking direct action to addressing those concerns. While some people in the community appear to be adopting a wait and see approach, the majority of initial social media responses on the hashtag appear to be responding with active hostility towards what they perceive as a "non-response" from Niantic. If this translates into continued boycots of the game from players, it seems likely Niantic may be forced into more meaningful action to address player dissatisfaction sooner rather than later.
A Response To Our Pokémon GO Community
To our Pokémon GO community:
We appreciate your letter and all of your feedback. We hear you. We are humbled by your response. Not every game has such a passionate, global player base that we’re fortunate enough to have.
Like everyone else around the world, our team has been working very hard to adapt to the global health environment. The recent Exploration Bonus changes we’ve made in the U.S. and New Zealand are designed to restore some of the foundational elements players enjoyed prior to 2020, and reward players once again for moving and exploring. Encouraging people to explore, exercise and safely play together in person remains Niantic’s mission.
The health and wellbeing of players is our top priority, which is why we have implemented the new Exploration Bonuses in select geographies where it is deemed safe to be outdoors. Research has shown that taking walks outside is safe and confers several health benefits. Furthermore, encouraging outdoor exploration is in keeping with Niantic’s mission. That said, we will continue to monitor health and safety guidance related to outdoor activities, and will make future changes if necessary.
We have heard your feedback about one change in particular - that of the PokéStop and Gym interaction distance. We reverted the interaction distance from 80 meters back to the original 40 meters starting in the U.S. and New Zealand because we want people to connect to real places in the real world, and to visit places that are worth exploring.
However, 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.
Our goal is to build fun and engaging experiences that remain true to our mission, and we thank you for challenging us with thoughtful and constructive feedback.
-The Niantic Team