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Pokémon Go Team Rocket Balloons and how often do Team Rocket Balloons appear explained

Keep your eyes on the sky.

Team Go Rocket Balloons have often been spotted floating through the skies in Pokémon Go since July 2020.

These Team Go Rocket Balloons will allow you to battle Team Go Rocket Grunts, a Team Go Rocket Leader or, if you’re lucky enough to have a Super Rocket Radar, the head of the organisation himself — the legendary Giovanni.

It’s also possible to find special Meowth balloons during certain events, allowing you to fight Jessie and James in Pokémon Go.

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Watch as battle Guzzlord - one of the Ultra Beasts in Pokémon GoWatch on YouTube

Team Go Rocket Hot Air Balloons in Pokémon Go explained

Team Go Rocket’s invasion began with them occupying PokéStops with their dangerous Shadow Pokémon. However, something happened in March 2020 that meant that most of us weren’t leaving the house to rescue Shadow Pokémon. In response, and to offer a safe way to play, Niantic added Team Go Rocket Balloons, causing Grunts to spawn in hot air balloons at your location at set times of the day.

This feature has remained to this day, and now, like with Remote Raiding, Team Go Rocket Balloons are helping make Pokémon Go more accessible for players in rural areas and those who prefer to stay at home.

Flying high above the map, these hot air balloons act as roaming invaded PokéStops (though you can’t spin them for items and your daily bonus), allowing you to battle a Team Go Rocket Grunt or Team Leader, depending on whether you have a Rocket Radar equipped.

If you manage to defeat the Team Go Rocket member in the Balloon, you will earn the chance to capture one of their Shadow Pokémon. The normal rules apply here: it’s almost always the first Pokémon they send out in battle if it’s a Grunt and it’s always the third Pokémon (the Legendary one) if it’s Giovanni. There are no benefits or penalties to using these, so treat them as you would any other Team Go Rocket encounter!

That said, there are a couple of things to note. Since Team Go Rocket Balloons are in the sky, you may need to zoom out to spot them. You'll know if one has spawned and you’re too zoomed in if you can see the shadow of the balloon on the ground.

Finally, it's important to note that if you have any large, floating, Pokémon buddies following, such as Rayquaza, these Pokémon may knock the balloon off course. This doesn’t make a huge difference, but it is pretty amusing to see them get involved, even if by mistake.

RayRay giving no damn to Team Go Rocket's Balloons! from r/TheSilphRoad

How often do Team Go Rocket Balloons spawn in Pokémon Go?

You have the chance to encounter a total of four Team Go Rocket Hot Air Balloons in Pokémon Go every day.

Each possible hot air balloon has its own dedicated period of the day when it could appear. Unless there is an event on that changes the spawn times, you can expect your daily Balloons to spawn at the following times:

  • First hot air balloon – between 12am and 5:59am
  • Second hot air balloon – between 6am and 11:59am
  • Third hot air balloon – between 12pm and 5:59pm
  • Fourth hot air balloon – between 6pm and 11:59pm

Remember, you have 20 minutes to take down the Team Go Rocket member in the Rocket Balloon, so if you take too long, you'll see (say it with us) Team Rocket blasting off again!

Once in a while, an in-game event will change the spawn rate of these Team Go Rocket Balloons, up to as frequently as one Balloon every 20 minutes. Keep an eye on your Today menu to see if such an event is happening in Pokémon Go.

How to battle a Team Go Rocket Leader in a Rocket Hot Air Balloon in Pokémon Go

As mentioned, who you see in a Balloon is a function of whether you have a Rocket Radar or Super Rocket Radar equipped. Or, more specifically, if you had one equipped when the Balloon spawned. Equipping or unequipping a Radar after it spawned won’t change who is in the Balloon, and defeating the Leader/Giovanni will consume your Radar, so be aware of this before trying to pull a fast one on Niantic.

So, if you want to encounter a Team Go Rocket Leader in a Rocket Balloon, all you have to do is equip a Rocket Radar before your next spawn time.

It’s important to remember that the Team Leader that you encounter will be randomly selected, which means that if you’re looking for a specific leader, you might find yourself unlucky. Unequipping and reequipping the Radar will not change who you see in the Balloon. Additionally, if you want to fight Jessie and James during one of their rare events, or if you’re looking for a particular Grunt and you have a Radar equipped, they will not spawn in a Balloon. Team Leaders and Giovanni always take priority.

The Season of Adventures Abound is here! The Party Up! event is currently running and players who didn't earn a Master Ball via Timed Investigation: Master Ball can purchase the Special Research: Master Ball quest. Party Play - Pokémon Go's multiplayer feature - is here, along with the Welcome Party quest. Be sure to fight in the Go Battle League, compete in Shadow Raids, complete Routes, use Daily Adventure Incense for the chance of encountering Galarian Articuno, Galarian Zapdos and Galarian Moltres. This incense may also give you encounters with other rare Pokémon in Pokémon Go.

How to battle Giovanni in a Rocket Balloon in Pokémon Go

Have a Super Rocket Radar and want to take down the Big Bad himself? Don’t want to leave the house and run the chances of running into that annoying Decoy Grunt? Don’t worry, we understand, and we have the perfect solution for you!

Simply equip a Super Rocket Radar and wait for your next spawn window. With one equipped, you’re guaranteed that your next Balloon will have Giovanni in it.

Now all you have to do is defeat him and hopefully catch the latest Shadow Legendary Pokémon. This is particularly useful if you want to hold your next Giovanni encounter for a day when the weather matches the Pokémon type. Catching a weather-booster Shadow Legendary is more difficult, of course, but the amount of Stardust and Candy it saves you can make this an appealing thing to consider.

Good luck battling Team Rocket in their Balloons!

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Lottie Lynn

Guides Editor

Lottie Lynn is Eurogamer's Guides Editor. She likes exploring new games and still has nightmares about the moon from Majora's Mask.