Niantic, developers of hit mobile title Pokemon Go, has released a public statement in response to the recent controversy over the studio’s decision to revert changes from 2020. In response to lockdowns, social distancing measures, and other COVID-19 prevention protocols, Niantic had eased certain features of Pokemon Go, including allowing players to access Gyms from farther distances. Earlier this year, those easements had been rolled back, causing players and sponsors to protest.
There was a community letter outlining a need for “Safety, Accessibility, and Respect,” in addition to the over 168,000 people had signed a petition (at the time of this writing) requesting that the COVID-19 accommodations remain in place. Some sponsors who had previously allowed their places of business to be used as hotspots for in-game activities went as far as to revoke their sponsorship in response to the controversy.
In their official response, released August 5 on the Niantic Community Blog, the Pokemon Go developers explained their reasoning for the changes. In that statement, Niantic stated that “the health and wellbeing of players is our top priority,” and went on to say that their motives for the changes were to encourage players to take more walks for the health benefits. The company stated that, while it was taking player complaints and concerns seriously, there were not yet any plans to revert current decisions. However, Niantic then promised that there would be a new internal team formed to address accessibility and health concerns. Any findings from this “task force” will be announced by the game’s September 1 update.
Niantic made no direct statement addressing community concerns about accessibility for disabled and neurodivergent Pokemon Go players, but it is possible that the upcoming announcements or features from Niantic will address these concerns.