This morning, Niantic has revealed what will be Pokémon GO‘s largest feature update yet, an expansive rework of gyms, and a preview of how Legendary Pokémon will likely be introduced into the game. The announcement comes hours before gyms are being temporarily disabled then reactivated, though it’s unclear the precise moment this all goes live. Possibly as soon as the end of the day.
So, what’s going on with these changes? There are a number of key points that reflect some long-rumored changes to gyms. Here’s what’s happening as soon as the gym rework is live:
– Pokémon GO‘s gyms now have six unique slots (no two of the same Pokemon), and enemy trainers will battle the Pokémon there in the order in which they were assigned.
– Pokémon will lose “motivation” over time, making them easier to defeat, as shown by a depleting heart. Players can feed their Pokémon to increase their motivation.
– Pokémon gyms can now be spun like PokeStops for items, some of them unique (gym-feeding berries?).
– Pokémon gyms will now give out badges that can be leveled up for increases rewards at gyms.
– Your Pokémon will amass more coins the longer they remain in a gym, and you will get the coins once they’re defeated/unmotivated and return to you.
So that’s what’s happening immediately, but Niantic also previewed “Raids” which are indeed tied to gyms, and are almost certainly tied to Legendary spawns, though the word “Legendary” is not used, and the only Pokémon shown are existing powerhouses like Tyranitar and Gyarados.
– Raids are timed events that will have a powerful Pokémon temporarily taking over a gym. In the preview materials, a 25,000+ CP Tyranitar is shown as an example.
– To participate in a raid, you need a raid pass which can be obtained from spinning a gym, but you can only hold one at a time.
– Players from all teams can work together to take down these Pokémon (max of 20 participants), and earn new items and an opportunity to catch these Pokémon (though probably not at that CP level).
– The items earned will be Rare Candy, Golden Razz Berries and even TMs(!). Rare Candy turns into a certain type of Pokemon’s candy when used on that Pokemon. The berry greatly increases odds of a wild capture and can be fed to gym Pokemon. TMs can be for fast or charged moves. Unclear if they’re randomized or for specific moves.
– Players can form private groups as well to take on these Pokémon thanks to a new in-game code system that allows you to link up with friends (not random numbers, the example shown is three Bulbasaur icons).
Again, Legendary Pokémon are not mentioned in this part of the update, and yet it’s impossible to think that this isn’t exactly how they will be introduced into the game, as I don’t see a better way to do it. Spawning Legendaries as raid boss Pokémon in gyms would give everyone the chance to band together to hunt them all over the world, while simultaneously making Pokémon GO live events like GO Fest in Chicago this July a lot more appealing with so many players in one place, making for easier coordination to take out these huge enemies. It also has you working in tandem with other players toward a common goal, which means you might actually be out in the world, meeting people playing the game once again, which has not really happened often since launch a year ago. Niantic is hoping to get some of that magic back, it seems.
Much of this confirms rumors that have been circulating forever, namely about berry feeding and the idea that raids could be gym takeover events by powerful Pokemon. I also take some personal satisfaction in Niantic implementing a gym change I’ve been asking about for ages now, limiting gyms to 6v6 battles, and disallowing multiple copies of the same Pokemon. That alone is a big fix. And they are also implementing another one of my suggestions, TMs, though it doesn’t look like they’ll be monetized. Actually, it’s unclear whether any aspects of this enormous update will be monetized, because if they are, Niantic is not spelling that out in these initial talking points. (Update: Apparently the game is selling “premium” raid passes in the store, but it’s unclear how those are different than regular raid passes).
The rest of the gym changes are a little harder to parse. I’m wondering what these new gym items are and how you rank up badges and what the rewards are there. While these moves seem designed to increase gym turnover and make them less stagnant than these 10-level, 3000+ CP monstrosities that currently infest the game, I do wonder how much this will matter when fundamental changes are not being made to the overly simplistic, not terribly fun swipe/tap battling system of the game. This is essentially the same gym system, but with all conceptual, and no mechanical changes.
This does sound like a huge update and parts of it certainly seem very exciting. I’m definitely more eager to try out raids than just the initial few gym changes, and I remain confused why Niantic refuses to utter the word “Legendary” yet, but I suppose they have their reasons, even if the delivery mechanism now seems obvious.
What do you make of all these changes? Will they get you playing and/or battling at gyms again?