Oh boy, here we go.
It's been a week since Niantic made its fateful announcement to boost the price of Remote Raid Passes and limit the number of uses per day, and the corner of the internet that keeps up with Pokemon Go has done nothing but stir ever since. Different parts of the community have once again come together to yell out to Niantic in a single voice against this change,and are now working together to bring about the change that we all want to see; better accessibility to all players, regardless of regional location or physical situation. A lot has been said about this change, with all manner of players raising their voices to sing a chorus of disapproval to Niantic, and it's about time that we raised our voice to join the choir. While much of what we have to say has probably been stated elsewhere in other words, here's our take on the situation as a whole:
For those unaware (which is PROBABLY almost no one in the community one at this point), here's the data on what exactly has changed:
|Item||Traditional Price||New Price||Difference|
|Remote Raid Pass||100 Coins||195 Coins||95% Increase|
|Remote Raid Pass Pack||300 Coint||525 Coins||75% Increase|
This price hike, when combined with the fact that Remote Raids are now hard-capped at 5 per day, means that players who rely on the Remote Raid system are now in quite a bind. No matter what your plan is, you're currently looking at spending at least 75% more coins to take part in the Remote Raid system, and you're limited to a maximum of 5 uses per day. So what does that mean? For one, it means that Free-To-Play players have now gone from having to farm coins for 2 days minimum to score a single Remote Raid pass to 4 days on average, not including the box, which is cheaper but will take significantly longer to pick up.
Why the Change?
The internet is currently full of speculation about the changes that Niantic made, with many players leaning towards one pretty obvious reason that Niantic might want to make those changes. But is the obvious answer really the right one? Let's review:
Niantic Wants to Boost Their Profits
According to Statista, this is the breakdown of Pokemon Go's earnings since 2016:
Looking at these numbers, we can see a very definite trend. After 2017, Pokemon Go saw yearly growth until it exploded in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, where it became one of the prime entertainment outlets for many individuals in varying degrees of lockdown. This largely continued into 2021, but dropped down to pre-2020 levels in 2022 as the world started getting back to normal.
On the surface, this may appear to be nothing more than order being restored and the status-quo returning to the game, but look a bit deeper. Not only did 2022 see Pokemon Go lose over a quarter of the revenue that it enjoyed in the previous year, it also saw a 4 year low, dropping below every year to date since 2018. For a business, this is an alarming drop in revenue, be it spawned on by a global driving force or not. Using this as a basis and ignoring the fact that we're only buying digital currency and giving Niantic an additional fortune in data by just having Pokemon Go installed on our phones, it makes perfect sense from a business standpoint that they'd want to jack up the price of what I'd wager to be one of their most profitable products... right?
Well, I'd honestly argue that this line of thought, while reasonable for anyone to consider and a definite benefit for Niantic, is not their primary reason for this price-hike. Part of the reason that I say this is that they also enacted a cap on the number of Remote Raids per day, which has likely hamstrung a huge number of "whales" that want to simply enjoy the game from the comfort of their home or office. Not to mention the fact that this was sure to bring about a lot of bad press, which it has, and cost more sales that way. When looking purely at the balance sheet, I'd estimate that this move will actually cost Niantic money to implement. For these reasons, I genuinely do not believe that monetary gains are not the prime motivating factor in this move... at least not in the obvious way!
Niantic Wants A Return to The Glory Days
So what exactly does Niantic want out of this? To understand that a bit better, let's think back to the point where sales were on the lower end of the spectrum on the chart above: the 2016-2017 era. Back when the game launched, it was an absolute phenomenon that took the entire world by storm, and back in 2017 the storm kicked back up a bit with the release of the Raid system. Back then, it was nothing to see a group of randomly assembled people standing in front of note-worthy areas of their cities or towns, tapping on their phone screens in near-unison as they challenge the latest raid bosses. Back in this day, Pokemon Go was a social phenomenon, and we had a very, very strong community that transcended the internet.
However, back around 2018 the boil of the community started to simmer. Many players stopped following the game as closely, and we slowly saw those huddles of players less and less often. The "Raid Trains" of old were getting shorter, and soon they'd become less communities and more friend-groups that are harder to actually break into. The glory days of Pokemon Go were falling off, and it was solidifying into what it would become into the foreseeable future. That is, until Covid hit. When the virus started spreading, Pokemon Go saw a surge in player activity due to the aforementioned issues, but we also saw even fewer groups forming for raids. This was due to Covid keeping us apart, but also because of the crux of the entire controversy that's in the spotlight today: the Remote Raid Pass.
This little item changed the game, both literally and figuratively. It opened up what was to become their most profitable era ever. Suddenly, raids were open all over the globe for players, and different apps and sites had ways to matchmake players regardless of their friend list. For the first time, Pokemon Go truly offered the freedom that it had long been lacking, despite being a game that touts freedom as one of its main selling points.
Ah, but this move also came with its down-sides:
- Players were less likely to group up in public, giving Niantic less free advertising
- Players were less connected, instead relying more on existing friend groups or matchmaking services to get into raids with minimal outside contact
- Players weren't out-and-about, meaning the data farmed from players with Pokemon Go installed became less valuable
And here's where the source of our current issue really starts. The Covid issue created a bubble, and Niantic gave us tools to inflate that bubble even more. And now that the bubble is finally popping, Niantic views the Remote Raid Pass as a means for players to circumnavigate the need to give free publicity to Pokemon Go and a way to make their data-collection, which I would personally imagine is where they likely get the majority of their games-based value, substantially less valuable. They can't exactly remove remote passes now, as that would cause a community that's already very volatile from years of playing a game run by a company that many consider to be cold and unfeeling towards its players to stir into a frenzy. So instead they've pulled this move on us as a "compromise" that lets both sides get what they want... right?
The community has taken to social media, dropping their views on the situation with tags like #HearUsNiantic2, #PokemonGo, #RemoteRaid, and have even gone so far as to put #Strike and revive the classic #HearUsNiantic, bringing attention to the plight of the community. Players and communities have started open letters and discussions, have recommended outright boycotts for upcoming events, and have all-around been trying to rally the troops to shape up and fight these changes before Niantic says "well, it looks like they're okay with it" and moves on.
While as a writer I honestly try to look at both sides of the issue and not vilify one side in order to avoid making a strawman argument, it's getting harder and harder to do with Niantic. This is a company with a terrible track-record for scorning their players and only making changes when the community yells out "no" in one voice, and even then it's only after outright dragging their feet for as long as possible. This is a company that, from an outside perspective, seems to harbor a distaste for all but the most casual players within their community, and does their best to stay as closed-mouth as possible with every move that they make. Even after promising to be more open to us, it looks like they've returned to their practice of shutting their communitcations down despite alienating their community in the process.
At this point, some player may say "what's the big deal? This game was made to be played in-person anyway!", and to that I will respond "you're right, it was... but it's evolved far beyond that". The STRICTLY IN-PERSON nature of Pokemon Go was fun and novel at release, but it became clear fairly early-on that it was HUGELY unbalanced for a lot of players. And while the Remote Raid Pass was arguably designed specifically to combat the difficulties set in place by Covid, it eventually grew into something far larger; a way to actually equalize the community and ensure that no player has to be left in the dust just because of their circumstances. Sure, they weren't free like the normal daily passes that we get from spinning gyms every day, but they were pretty affordable in their own right. And while we point at those who live in rural areas as the example of players who suffer the most from this change, and they definitely are in need of more support, I for one also know a at least a handful of disabled individuals within my city that were overjoyed at the opportunity to play again once Remote Raids dropped, but have now been virtually stripped of the ability to consistently play due to these changes. And while I'm not one to throw around terms like this myself, I can't help but wonder.... doesn't this move seem just a bit ableist in that light?
When it comes right down to it, the Pokemon Go community is taking the course of action against Niantic's latest move that appears to be the most likely to get any sort of a positive response. The strategy for most players has been to make the issue as visible as possible and stop playing during key points in order to send a message to Niantic. But the question is, "will this be enough?". It's been over a week since the announcement was made, and not even 24 hours since it was implemented as of this writing, and yet Niantic is still deaf to the calls of the playerbase. It's possible that they want to see how we will react post-release, so the best course of action could be to continue to hold the line in the coming weeks, but time will tell.
As for me, I am sad to say that I think that my time with Pokemon Go has come to an end. I've played since the game first released and have enjoyed it thoroughly, but I'm finally tired of Niantic's antics, and will be uninstalling the game once I'm done with this article. I'll still continue here at Gamepress as if nothing as changed as I'm still a big fan of this site, but my journey is finally at an end. It's finally time to say goodbye to the Pokemon that helped me in my time on this trip, and give a shout-out to my all-time favorite: