Last summer, Niantic and Nintendo took the world by storm with the release of Pokémon Go. You might have heard about it; pretty much everyone with a smartphone downloaded the game and began traversing their neighborhoods in hopes of finding the rarest pocket monsters, occasionally stumbling across a dead body or causing a traffic accident. Still, good times were had by most. The spark faded rather quickly, though, with the initial massive numbers tapering off leaving the true fans behind. The amount of players is still respectable by any standard, though, and the popularity of the app continues on. One thing that contributed to the drop off came in the form of the gyms. Frankly, the experience kind of sucked. Capturing and leveling them up was a tedious process, and it quickly became a matter of taking a spot over and stacking it with multiple Gyarados. This is something that Niantic has been working to resolve, with the first part of the results being added today.
This first update is rather striking in its differences. First, each gym will also have a Pokéstop spinner, so items can be gathered there. When going to a gym, the player will notice that it is no longer possible to level it up to increase the amount of slots. Now, each gym will have a permanent amount of six slots to fill. This will help reduce the slog when trying to remove those jerkface Valor people from the one gym in walking distance. Keeping a gym will no longer be a matter of leaving behind a powerful monster and not thinking about it until it limps back into the player’s inventory. These guys get hungry and need to be fed. Leaving them without treats causes their CP strength to degenerate over time, with the more powerful Pokémon losing it quicker than weaker ones. Finally, multiples of the same Pokemon will not be able to hang in the same gym. If there is a Jolteon already present, then the player cannot add another, needing to opt for a Flareon or some other beast. Veterans might complain that this will make it tougher to dominate a gym in perpetuity. That’s the point.
That isn’t the only update that Go will be receiving. Coming at some point in the future will be cooperative raids. These are actually pretty cool. Basically, an egg will appear over a gym, easily seen on the map. Alongside the egg is a countdown timer. When the timer hits zero, the egg will hatch and an extremely powerful Pokemon will appear. During our hands on demo, we saw an 800 CP monster at one gym, with another around 25,000 CP. The idea is for groups of people to gather together and team up to take it on and defeat it. Just like the gym battles of old, up to six representatives from each trainer’s stable can join the fight, making for large scale battles against a single ridiculously strong foe. Accessing the raids will require a Raid Pass, which is a new item that will be awarded at Pokéstops and Gyms, but the rewards will be myriad indeed. After our team managed to fell a particularly difficult boss, my screen flooded with balls, fruits, and other items galore. That, and I was given a chance to catch the boss itself, which was a pretty cool touch.
The nice thing about raids is that it will not be a one and done deal. Meaning, if a player misses the initial group, they won’t be out of luck. Multiple teams can take it on separately. There is also a private raid system. Using a customizable code system people can set up their own raid groups without needing to worry about freeloaders butting in to take a piece of the spoils. After our hands-on time, I’m happy to report that these new additions are worthy and greatly improve on the base game to make it more exciting and interesting. Whether or not it will bring back the players remains to be seen, but fixing the gyms was a common request, which now seem fixed.