Photo: pxhere.com

Pokemon GO instantly took over the world when it was introduced to the Google Play and iOS App stores in July 2016. According to Guinness World Records, the Niantic, Inc.-made app made $207 million in revenue in its first month, the most of any mobile game in history. But in four years since, the augmented reality phenomenon has, for many, become a thing of the past.

In 2020, mainly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pokemon GO has made a resurgence. According to Sensor Tower, the app has made $445 million in the first half of 2020 and is on pace for its most lucrative year ever. Much of Pokemon GO’s bounce-back can be credited to new features that bring players back to the game, like new generations of Pokemon and stay-at-home game modes. 

Niantic has altered several in-game features to account for social distancing mandates and in-person gathering limitations. For example, players can access PokeStops, gyms, and raids from further away than ever before. Rather than needing to be within a few feet of these spots, users can access them from several dozen yards away in order to keep their distance.

Raids, a popular feature introduced in 2017 in which players meet team up with others to take down a super-strong, rare Pokemon, have been made infinitely easier to participate in. Using a remote raid pass (cost 100 PokeCoins or one dollar), players can partake in any raid listed in the “nearby” section of the app. If you live near a town center, park, or in a city, there are likely many raids taking place around you at any given time.

Other adaptations due to COVID-19 include the increased likelihood of any Pokemon spawning in any location, and free daily gifts. These two changes make it far easier for players to complete Field Research objectives, which include catching a specific type of Pokemon each day or making five “great” PokeBall throws.

Because players are not out of the house as often as before, they can turn on “adventure sync” to track their steps around their home and quickly hatch eggs. In the Field Research tab of Pokemon Go, Niantic lists nine “bonuses,” a feature that did not exist before. Among these bonuses are “½ Hatch Distance,” meaning a 5-kilometer egg only requires walking 2.5 kilometers to hatch, and “2x Incense duration,” meaning the usual 30-minute length of an Incense is doubled to one hour.

One of Niantic’s biggest moneymakers, the annual Pokemon GO Fest, had to adapt greatly. In past years, players gather in one specific city and walk around searching for Pokemon, spinning PokeStops, and completing objectives. In Niantic’s stay-at-home version of Pokemon Go Fest, which took place on July 25-26, it’s all online. Regardless of where you reside, users experienced “rotating habitats,” allowing them to catch different types of Pokemon every hour. 

Recently, companies like Niantic, which previously relied on people getting out of their homes, congregating, walking, and driving around, have had to adapt. Their creativity in changing Pokemon GO to accommodate the new world we live in has been spectacular, and it has resulted in a resurgence of a mobile app many had forgotten about.