We Need to Talk About the Stay At Home Bonus Changes

Major case of the grumps

Niantic have announced that starting October 1st there are going to be changes made to the Stay At Home bonuses, with some features remaining temporarily, some being permanent, and some changing or going away. For the full information on what has changed, check out our article here.

We always knew many of these changes weren’t permanent, and we know that they changes aren’t viable forever, but the sudden change seems badly timed and a little concerning in areas. The pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere, and staying at home is still the focus for many parts of the world, so why change the Stay At Home bonus now?

The community reaction to these changes has been huge, with social media making it very clear that people aren’t happy, so let’s talk!

The Good

Let’s start with the good. Remote raiding is staying, which has totally changed the game for rural players, those who struggle to physically get to gyms, and for everyone who is currently affected by the pandemic.

Remote raiding has brought together communities all over the world and has been a brilliant addition to the game. It’s not a feature many of us ever saw coming, but the pandemic saw Niantic get to work on it, and it has helped so many players obtain Legendary Pokémon they might never have been able to get in their local areas. And if you are a player who loves to grind, you can keep grinding even when raids are no longer spawning in your country and play around the world. We love this feature, and we are so happy to see it stay.

Walking distance isn’t coming back for GO Battle League yet, another bit of good news as many parts of the world are entering their second wave (or haven’t gotten out of their first) and lockdowns are resuming, so for those who are hardcore PvP players, there is no worry about having to go outside and get those KM in. We are really happy to see this remaining, as PvP has been something the whole player base can safely partake in from home, whilst feeling part of a real community.

Increased Gym/Pokéstop spin distance is staying, another great feature IMO. I’d love to see this one become permanent. Being able to be that bit further away from a Gym means if you are allowed outside to safely raid, you can be more spread out and social distance much easier. For many people it means they can reach a Pokéstop or Gym they couldn’t reach before, or may even be able to reach from the safety of their own home. Long term this remaining could stop potential congestion around Gyms on raid days, which is better for both our community and the general public, when it is eventually safe for us all to be together again and participate in events like 3 hour raid events.

Niantic also announced some permanent changes, keeping the gift inventory limit at 20 (a much needed quality of life improvement, especially for rural players), incense will remain at 60 minutes, and the 3x Catch stardust and 3x Catch XP bonus for your first catch of the day will stay. Gifts being limited to 10 was always a bug bear for most of the community so seeing it stick to 20 permanently is great, it will help people keep sending out more gifts and therefore helping other players, especially those more rural.

Incense staying at 60 minutes is so much better for Community Days, research days, and those on the grind, so we are really pleased to see this being a permanent change. Only needing 3 incense for a regular 3 hour Community Day is a lot cheaper for players than 6!

Incubators will be included in more boxes in the shop. This one is hard to decide whether it is good or not, but if you are egg obsessed, more discounted incubators can only be a good thing. We can’t decide if it is good or not, because the reason why we are getting more incubators, is because eggs are being changed too, as we discuss below.

Our grumpy faces at these changes

The Bad

Gifts are no longer going to be guaranteed from PokéStops, so it will take longer to collect your 20 gifts to send out. They will be increased, but previously if you had a space for a gift, your spin guaranteed a gift. This is one that will affect rural players in particular who have less stops to spin, so please keep supporting your rural player friends by sending them gifts, even if you don’t regularly get them in return!

Many players who lived by PokéStops have made it their mission to send out their maximum number of gifts every day specifically to help those who can’t access PokéStops regularly, whether rural or in lockdown, and this will certainly make that harder for those amazing players who have been so determined to help.

On the subject of gifts, your Buddy Pokémon will now only bring you gifts when you have nearly run out, and will only bring you gifts once per day. This is a fairly big change, again, mostly impacting rural players, who relied on those Buddy gifts to be able to consistently send out gifts to their friend list.

Please remember as you play, not every player can safely access PokéStops right now, so be considerate and don’t always expect someone to be able to send back gifts in the same way they once were.

The Ugly

There are two major things that are changing that the community are concerned about.

First up, egg distance is reverting back to its proper distance. While this was inevitable, it just seems poorly timed with many countries back in various stages of lockdown. At least with 2KM eggs being 1KM, you could exercise in your home with Adventure Sync on and potentially hatch that egg, but it will take those who can’t get outside so long to hatch a 10km egg back at full distance. If you’ve been stuck with only the longer distance eggs, that might mean no egg hatches for the foreseeable as you attempt to hop, skip, and jump around your home to add small amounts of distance via Adventure Sync.

And the change that is absolutely the number one cause of upset, incense effectiveness will now only be increased while walking. This in particular seems a very ill thought out decision, when most of Europe are re-entering different stages of lockdown, and the USA where Niantic are based isn’t coping particularly well with the pandemic, never mind taking into consideration the rest of the world all being at different stages of the pandemic too. Increased incense effectiveness has been something that people have found SO helpful to allow them to play the game from home.

Community Days have been more fun, and people without spawns in their homes have had a way to grind and get spawns regularly. Removing this feature, potentially back to the previous 4-5 minute gap, will have a tremendous impact on a lot of players. For so many people it isn’t safe to go outside and walk around right now, and encouraging people to go outside for non-essential trips is against many areas government advice and current guidelines.

While we understand that the game was always meant to be played outside, and we all miss that aspect of it so very dearly, as the second wave of Covid-19 hits, encouraging people outside seems just plain wrong. I am sure sales of incense bundles will have been the highest they have ever been, so this decision just doesn’t make sense, from a financial point of view for Niantic, and from a moral point of view, during a pandemic.

Accurate depiction of most players reading the Niantic announcement

The Conclusion

The timing on these changes, and how last minute they were announced, just seems quite bizarre in all honestly. We don’t believe that a game should be encouraging people to go outside during a pandemic, when Niantic had previously done so much good work to make the game so playable from home. The short notice of these changes also seems a poor choice, with just 24 hours notice for many parts of the world. A bit more warning might have softened the blow, but instead the short notice has made the impact of these decisions feel even harsher.

We understand that going outside and getting in your exercise can be a real boost to mental and physical health, but while the world is in the grips of a deadly pandemic, is now really the time to encourage people to go outside?

All photos by kittypokemonsalot.