Niantic changes Pokemon Go and other games to adapt to social distancing

The game developers are encouraging indoor play.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
2 min read

Niantic is reworking its games so players can stay inside and still have fun.

Pokemon Go

Niantic, creator of popular AR games Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, is changing gameplay to encourage social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The games now include both indoor and outdoor play elements, Niantic CEO John Hanke said in a Monday release

"We are adding to our product roadmap so we can enable more ways to play inside and around the home in the coming days and weeks, when the world needs it most," Hanke said in the release.

Niantic is planning to add an indoor step-tracker with Adventure Sync so indoor tasks like cleaning or running on a treadmill will count toward achievements in the game. The company is also enhancing in-game social features so players can stay in touch with those they can't meet up with in real life. 

"You'll soon be able to team up with friends and take on Raid Battles together in Pokémon GO from the comfort of home," Hanke said.


Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is getting some new changes.

César Salza / CNET

Niantic is also working on ways for players to "virtually visit and share memories about their favorite real-world places," and is reimagining Pokemon Go Fest, though more details are not yet available. Players can also check out Go Battle League, a new form of gameplay with reduced walking requirements. 

In Wizards Unite, Hanke said Niantic has increased the nearness of overall content like Spell Energy and rare potion ingredients. In addition, Foundables can spawn directly in your house. Ingress Portals are also now tuned to encourage at-home play. 

"In areas where it is permitted by local authorities, outdoor walks, practiced with proper social distancing, will continue to be a great way to contribute to physical and mental well being and you'll still be able to play our games while you do that," Hanke said. "The changes we are making offer an alternative when that's not possible."

Watch this: Microsoft's new Minecraft Earth mobile game is like Pokemon Go