- "Pokémon Go," the augmented reality (AR) mobile game that urges players to explore their outdoor surroundings, is undergoing a revamp for gamers who are stuck indoors because of the coronavirus pandemic. Developer Niantic is prioritizing game updates for "individual settings," such as showing digital creatures that don't require players to leave home to capture, Polygon reported.
- The biggest change is to "Pokémon Go" Battle League that typically requires players to walk outdoors to attend a gaming session together. Instead, players can compete without being in the same place.
- Niantic also postponed its Abra Community Day and Safari Zone events that corrals players in a public setting, per a blog post. Gamers can check the "Pokémon Go" website for updates about events.
"Pokémon Go" pioneered the use of location-based AR for gaming, urging people to explore their surroundings in search of digital creatures that were only visible while looking through a smartphone's camera view. The current pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has disrupted that key element of gameplay as health authorities urge people around the globe to stay at home or avoid contact with other people. Niantic is smartly prioritizing the safety of gamers with changes to "Pokémon Go" and the postponement or cancelation of live events. This demonstrates how mobile marketers — especially those whose brands emphasize movement and public gatherings — can nimbly adjust to adhere to safety regulations while maintaining engagement and serving their customers.
It's not clear how the coronavirus is disrupting Niantic's effort to let small- and medium-size businesses sponsor locations in "Pokémon Go." Last year, the company announced an ambitious plan to include a wider group of sponsors, creators and software developers in its location-based platform. The expanded AR experiences were intended to urge mobile users to explore more of the real world instead of sitting at home in what CEO John Hanke described as the "anti-Amazon" model, VentureBeat reported — a reference to how the e-commerce giant will deliver goods directly to customers' homes. The coronavirus pandemic has upended that strategy, as people become more reliant on companies like Amazon for home delivery of food and other essentials.
Niantic is among the companies that have canceled gaming-related events during the pandemic. "Minecraft" developer Mojang this month announced the cancellation of the Minecraft Festival, which had been scheduled for Sept. 25-27, because of the difficulties in organizing the "mammoth event" when people are self-quarantining, according to a company blog post. Amazon's Twitch livestreaming platform also canceled TwitchCon Amsterdam, set for early May. Twitch hasn't announced any changes to TwitchCon San Diego, which is still scheduled for Sept. 25-27, per its website.