Pokémon Go maker Niantic has detailed how it will raise the game's level cap for the first time since launch back in the summer of 2016.
The change comes as part of Pokémon Go's largest update yet - and the first one to be given a fancy name: "Go Beyond." Among the many other features included are the addition of seasons, a competitive league rank rework, platinum-level medals, and the first release of Gen 6 creatures from the Kalos region.
It all rolls out in the week beginning Monday, 30th November.
Let's start with the level cap increase from 40 to 50, which has to cater both to players still on the ladder to the current level 40 cap and those who have now accrued the amount of XP it takes to hit level 40 many times over.
Levelling beyond 40 will require you to be at certain XP totals and to complete certain challenge requirements. These challenges are meant to reward players for their knowledge of the game, skills and dedication to playing, and include things such as "Evolve every Eevee evolution" and "Catch 200 Pokémon in a day", both of which will take some dedication.
Some levels will require you to hit a new platinum rank on your profile badges (which track things such as the number of Pokémon caught in different regional Pokédexes). It remains to be seen how many of these medals will now have a new platinum tier.
What is clear, though, is these levels are meant to last a little while, even if you have amassed the XP requirements already. Thankfully, there's no need to grind XP further if you've already passed a level's requirements - your all-time XP total is counted.
As for players still on the road to level 40, the XP total required to hit the previous cap isn't being adjusted - but XP awards from activities across the game will be buffed, making it an easier ride. Catching, evolving, hatching, adding new 'dex entries and other activities will now offer increased XP up to double their previous totals.
Anyone who hits level 40 by the end of 2020 (including those already there) will gain a Legacy 40 profile medal to acknowledge their early grind (or just scraping it in December), along with timed research that awards a rather fetching Gyarados hat.
Levels beyond 40 will not just be a badge of pride, they'll also come with exclusive cosmetics and other bonuses. And your Pokémon will also be able to level beyond 40, via a new XL Candy item. XL Candy will be given out across the game where regular Pokémon candy is found currently, or you can bulk convert Pokémon candy to XL candy instead.
Next, on to the addition of seasons. Pokémon Go will now reflect the passing of real-world seasons every three months, with the game's first season due to begin on 1st December at 8am local time.
Every season will affect the Pokémon available in the wild, in eggs and in raids, and be reflected by themed in-game events.
Pokémon Go's first season is the Season of Celebration, and will include events themed around celebrating creatures featured in each of the various Pokémon regions. The season will conclude at the end of February 2021, in time for the Pokémon franchise's 25th anniversary, with what Niantic has described as "a brand-new global event experience".
The Season of Celebration will see wintry creatures appear in the northern hemisphere, while summer-themed creatures (Niantic mentions Burmy and Darumaka) will appear in the southern hemisphere. This is in addition to the usual in-game changes seen during events, and as affected by local weather.
Seasons will also act as a way to rotate different Mega Pokémon into and out of the game's focus. Different Mega Pokémon will be featured in raids each season, while certain Mega-Evolved creatures will benefit from buffed CP totals at certain times.
There's still no word on the next Mega Pokémon to be released, following the feature's bumpy rollout a couple of months ago and various subsequent fixes to help address fan concerns. Niantic said it was still evaluating future changes to the Mega Pokémon formula, and there's no news on any further changes today.
Go Battle League will also adjust its structure to align with Pokémon Go's wider seasonal model. GBL seasons will also last for three months, albeit with an expanded 24 rank structure.
Too many players were getting stuck in a bottleneck around rank seven in the mode's current 10-rank league, Niantic explained, while an expanded number of ranks will allow for greater rank-up rewards, and items tied into the current season's theme.
And finally, on to the arrival of Gen 6 Pokémon from the Kalos region - a pretty big deal in its own right. These creatures will begin to appear in the wild and in eggs from 2nd December.
As you'd expect, this first wave of Pokémon includes Gen 6 starters Chespin, Fennekin and Froakie and their evolutions. Common creatures such as Bunnelby, Fletchling and Litleo are also included, along with their respective evolutions.
There's a new regional Pokémon, too. France will exclusively get Klefki, the keyring Pokémon.
Niantic also teased the arrival of one more new Pokémon, which will be available from one-star raid eggs - though it is keeping the identity of this creature a mystery for now.
And that's it, more or less! Certain Australian players get the XP cap increase today, so Niantic can test the feature on them (and hey, getting to be first in the world to hit 41 isn't bad!).
For everyone else, a new 12 Days of Friendship event goes live today to count down to 30th November. It offers an increased rate of friendship levelling (one of the easiest ways to rack up big XP bonuses), with additional increases to raid completion XP and an attack boost when battling in raids with friends. You'll also be able to open more gifts each day, too.