Since its launch in the summer of 2016 (in the Before Times before the Before Times), Pokémon Go has never exactly been social-distancing-friendly. A major component of its gameplay involves being outside, walking around in different areas, and using augmented reality to find and capture the eponymous creatures. While most people seemed perfectly happy with this style of gameplay, there were some fans and would-be players who felt Pokémon Go should also allow for “remote” gameplay. That may seem antithetical to the purpose of the game, but for players who live in rural areas and those with disabilities, the complete absence of remote functionality created an unfortunate barrier.
A new feature from Vice details how Niantic, the game developer behind Pokémon Go and Ingress, has expanded the game to make it easier for people to play from home. Although these updates, first announced on April 15, were primarily developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to play the beloved game from home is also finally allowing people in rural areas and those living with disabilities to join in the fun. According to Niantic CEO John Hanke, the changes actually began back in March with an update that increased the area in which players could participate in raids and “halved the distance players needed to travel to hatch eggs, made PokéStops drop gifts more frequently, and increased the amount of Pokémon appearing in the wild.” In addition:
A month later Niantic went even further and announced the remote raid system, and made it easier for players to hit PokéStops for gifts and perform other activities while remaining sheltered in place. Now, players can participate in any raid visible on their map from any distance by purchasing remote raid passes using the in-game currency for about $0.99 per pass or about $2.50 for three.
“Sthomde,” a Twitch streamer who has a disability, told Vice that the updates are a step in the right direction, but he still feels as though Pokémon Go isn’t accessible enough for a portion of the disabled population:
Maintaining the distance passes works for only one facet of the game. If you’re someone who physically CAN’T leave your home at all, the game is practically unplayable unless you’re lucky to live in a populous area.