#HearUsNiantic: Pokémon Go players boycott Niantic

Throughout the month of August, many Pokémon Go players participated in a boycott against Niantic, Inc. – a software company known for developing augmented reality mobile games. Players were encouraged to minimize the amount of time spent playing the game and to not purchase anything. 

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic Niantic enabled changes, including an increased interaction radius to Pokémon Go. This allowed players to continue to play Pokémon Go while practicing social distancing. 

However, Niantic reverted the changes from the safe 80 meters back to the original 40 meters. This made many players upset, especially seeing as the pandemic is still not over.

Twitter user @_ZoeTwoDots composed a letter to Niantic with the hashtag “#HearUsNiantic,” explaining why the interaction distance needs to be changed back. The tweet can be found at https://twitter.com/_zoetwodots/status/1423282896094208002?s=21

First and foremost, this made the game much safer to play and it made the game more accessible to players with disabilities. 

“Many disabled Trainers could now interact with locations that previously excluded them from the Pokémon Go community,” @_ZoeTwoDots explained in the letter. “This includes interacting with Gyms and Pokéstops that would otherwise be inaccessible due to stairs, steep inclines or other physical barriers.”  

Outside of safety and accessibility concerns, the increased interaction distance showed respect to the community that does not play Pokémon Go. Because the game relies on going out into the real world, it leads to players potentially blocking off entrances to stores or getting in the way of other people, when players are just trying to get close enough to interact with Pokéstops or Gyms. 

The tweet gained a fair amount of traction and after a week of it being posted, Niantic took notice and responded. Their full response can be found at https://nianticlabs.com/blog/pgo-exploration-bonus-response/?hl=en

Niantic explained they would be starting a task force to look into the issues, but no changes were going to be made until Sept. 1. 

“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,” Niantic stated. “We will share the findings of this task force by the next in-game season change (Sept. 1.)”

“As part of this process, we will also be reaching out to community leaders in the coming days to join us in this dialogue.”

Players were disappointed by Niantic’s response and continued to express their frustrations on Twitter by using the hashtag “#HearUsNiantic.” They felt that Niantic was not really listening to their player base. 

On Aug. 25, many players were pleasantly surprised to see the boycott worked. The Pokémon Go official Twitter announced they would be reverting the interaction distance back to 80 meters. 

“Trainers – we’re looking forward to sharing our plans as a result of the task force on Sept. 1, but one thing does not have to wait,” Pokémon Go’s Twitter stated. “From now on, 80 meters will be the base interaction radius for PokéStops and Gyms globally.”

The game was updated with this change and an announcement was made in-app the same day. 

From the tweet, it appears this is not all Niantic has prepared for Pokémon Go players. Hopefully there will be more changes like this made on Sept. 1. 

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