CEO John Hanke said in a blog post today that Niantic acknowledges the “this time of unprecedented challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic” and the “increased physical and mental strain” it is causing.
Niantic’s makes games with the idea of getting people outside for exercise and to explore the world, with the ultimate goal of helping people connect with others. The games have a global community of hundreds of millions of people.
“We have always believed that our games can include elements of indoor play that complement the outdoor, exercise and explore DNA of what we build,” Hanke said. “Now is the time for us to prioritize this work, with the key challenge of making playing indoors as exciting and innovative as our outdoor gameplay.”
Hanke said the company is adding to its product roadmap so it can enable more ways to play inside and around the home in the coming days and weeks.
While it’s impossible to predict when and how the situation with COVID-19 will evolve globally, he said Niantic will make the following changes to games and live events:
- Exercise: You can track your steps indoor with Adventure Sync so activities like cleaning your house and running on a treadmill count toward game achievements. Niantic will make improvements to Adventure Sync so it works even better with indoor movement and activities.
- Social: Niantic is enhancing the in-game virtual social features to enable players to stay in touch when they can’t meet in real life. You’ll soon be able to team up with friends and take on Raid Battles together in Pokémon Go from the comfort of home.
- Explore: The company is also looking into how to help players virtually visit and share memories about their favorite real-world places, until they can once again visit them in person.
- Live Events: The company is re-imagining what it means to participate in a Niantic live event this summer, and putting its creative energy towards bringing the excitement directly to your home. That means it is working on an entirely new way to enjoy Pokémon Go Fest. More details coming soon.
Niantic has already made a number of changes to adapt to the current environment where group play is no longer possible and outdoor activity may be restricted.
“We just launched a new form of gameplay in Pokémon Go called Go Battle League that you can play from anywhere in the world, including at home,” Hanke said. “We reduced the walking requirements for Go Battle League from 3 km to zero and introduced deeply discounted Incense and Poké Balls so people can catch Pokémon without traveling far. Gifts have more useful content and we increased storage so you can send and receive more gifts.”
For Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Niantic has increased the amount of content that’s near you on the map so players should see Spell Energy, more iconic Harry Potter content, and rare potions ingredients that help you make progress. Niantic has also made potion tuning adjustments so players can have Foundables spawn directly at their house. Among other changes, gifts have also been adjusted to include more helpful resources and we increased the amount of gifts that players can open each day.
And Ingress Portals are now tuned to encourage at-home play and Niantic has reduced the need to interact with multiple Portals. Niantic has increased the number of Portal hacks before burnout, reduced cooldown period for Portals, and enabled the deployment of two L7 and L8 Resonators per Portal. In addition, Portal recharge has been added as a new means for daily credit towards the Sojourner Medal.
In areas where it is permitted by local authorities, outdoor walks, practiced with proper social distancing, will continue to be a great way to contribute to physical and mental well being and you’ll still be able to play our games while you do that. The changes we are making offer an alternative when that’s not possible.
“We look forward to the day when we can return to the familiar places we dream about and once again safely play together with family and friends. When the world is ready for that, we’ll be ready too,” Hanke said.