After more than a year of gameplay bonuses designed to make Pokémon Go easier to play during the pandemic, developer Niantic has laid out a detailed roadmap for how it will remove, replace and adopt these changes in the future.
Some changes will be made permanent, though others - most notably the ability to interact with PokéStops and gyms at an increased distance - will be removed.
But changes will be made on a country-by-country basis, Niantic has said, and in the short term there will be new temporary "exploration bonuses" for countries which lose the pandemic changes soon.
Changes will be made first in New Zealand and the US, starting at the end of July. Daily gifts from buddy Pokémon will be reduced, Incense effectiveness will be reduced when stationary, and PokéStop/Gym interaction radius will revert back to its pre-pandemic status.
In return, regions which see these features removed will get new "exploration bonuses", including two free raid passes per day instead of one, a 10x XP bonus on new PokéStop spins, guaranteed gifts from PokéStops and increased Incense effectiveness while moving. These exploration bonuses will change at the end of the game's current season (on 1st September).
As for what will stay (some of which was previously announced), Incense duration will stick to 60 minutes, you'll be able to carry and open more gifts each day, the PVP Go Battle League mode will not require walking or close proximity to other players, and you'll still get bonuses for your first Pokémon catch of the day.
"We're committed to doing this in a staggered way, when it makes sense for each place in the world, to help people play safely," Niantic wrote in a detailed blog post. "As we return to the outside world again, these changes are aimed at restoring the focus of Pokémon GO on movement and exploration in the real world. These changes will be introduced slowly and carefully to make it more exciting to explore the world around you."
As for the new exploration bonuses, Niantic said it would make them available "as it's safe to do so". "We understand that every place is different. Rest assured, we will be monitoring the situation and activating appropriate bonuses when and where available. Because of this, Trainers may experience different bonuses at different times."
A note on remote raids, which still contain bonus changes not mentioned as changing or being removed above, states that Niantic will update on those in the future.
"Remote raids have become an important part of the game this past year and we're going to continue evolving them. Our intention is to find the right balance between remote play and in-person play, so stay tuned for more details in the coming months. Many of these in-person raid changes will be to prepare for the eventual return of EX Raids."
EX Raids - invitation-only events which drew huge crowds in close proximity to each other - have been on hiatus since the start of the pandemic.
So, how has all this gone down? The major sticking point for the Pokémon Go community is the removal of that increased interaction radius, which has lasted for so long that it has changed how many people play. Last autumn, Niantic wrote that it would remain in the game for the "foreseeable future". Players have become used to standing further away from a location, or other players, or simply being able to get more done in the game while exercising but not having to change course and brush up close against a particular spot. We'll have to see whether Niantic's US and New Zealand test makes a difference.