In a letter titled ‘A response to our Pokémon Go community’, Niantic has defended its decision to revert changes that were made to increase player safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reverted changes in question mean that players will once again need to get closer to Gyms and Pokéstops, both of which could be accessed from much further away throughout most of the pandemic.
Players have protested the removal of this change, with an open letter circulating the community under ‘#HearUsNiantic‘. Furthermore, boycott action is being organized under ‘#BoycottNiantic‘ on Twitter.
Dear@NianticLabs @PokemonGoApp @Pokemon @johnhanke,
The Pokémon GO Community is asking for help & resolution for the 2x stop distance removal.
Today we ask you to #HearUsNiantic & respond.
Asking sponsors @Verizon @SamsungMobileUS @Starbucks stand with the players#PokemonGo pic.twitter.com/sT5RhlDIwS
— The Trainer Club (@thetrainerclubb) August 5, 2021
In the letter, players argue that the pandemic changes offered “a far greater positive impact on the community” and made the game safer with increased social distancing, less need to cross busy roads and ensured that trespassing was unnecessary to reach a point of interest.
The letter also outlines how the interaction radius made Pokémon Go more accessible to players with disabilities. The increased radius allowed players to access buildings that are otherwise inaccessible due to “stairs, steep inclines and other barriers”, while “trainers with autism and sensory conditions could engage with the community from a more accommodating distance.”
If @NianticLabs never expanded the radius for stop/gym interaction, today’s community outcry likely wouldn’t have happened.
— Caleb Peng (@CalebPeng) August 6, 2021
Despite these points, Niantic’s response does not address accessibility issues and instead argues that the interaction radius was reverted “because we want people to connect to real places in the real world, and to visit places that are worth exploring.”
It further adds that “research has shown that taking walks outside is safe and confers several health benefits”. While the letter confirms that the decreased interaction radius will remain.
Niantic also said: “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.”
The findings of this ‘task force’ will be shared “by the next in-game season change (September 1).”
— Marks01234 (@marks01234) August 6, 2021
Fans online are unhappy with the response. Some believe it fails to address accessibility issues and makes no specific promises, with one Reddit moderator for Pokémon Go updating their community letter to call the response “woefully inadequate”.
As detailed in a petition with over 165,000 signatures and supported by various community figures surrounding the game, fans will “limit, or cut spending altogether, to protest this change.”