After almost three years, Pokémon GO is dramatically improving its Buddy Pokémon system! Buddy Adventure is a new feature that allows Trainers to explore the world around them with their favorite Buddy Pokémon. Soon you will be able to feed them, play with them, battle, explore and level up your friendship with your favorite Buddy Pokémon. The new feature is set to roll out worldwide by 2020.
A beautiful new trailer tells the story behind the new Pokémon GO feature:
Much like in Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee, you will be able to interact with your Buddy. Take out your phone, tap on Play! on the revamped buddy profile page and play around with your buddies in AR+. Different Pokémon react in different ways when you interact with them, as one would expect. Can’t wait to see how Suicune and Sableye, my favorite Pokémon, react to me frantically petting and feeding them!
Do note that each Pokémon species has been designed to express itself in distinct ways, and Niantic tech artist Lena Verstappen shared that “[…] there was a deeply respectful way in which each and every Pokémon was treated throughout the process of developing the features.”
Of course, the system is not only about playing around with your buddy Pokémon, as Niantic has weaved in a nifty buddy leveling system throughout Buddy Adventures. Your friendship with your buddy Pokémon can level up four times:
- Good Buddy: Your buddy can join you on your map view! You’ll also see how your buddy feels on the buddy profile page.
- Great Buddy: Having a hard time catching a Pokémon? Your buddy may help you out in Pokémon encounters! It can also bring you items that can help you in your Pokémon GO journey.
- Ultra Buddy: Your buddy will help you explore the world around you by letting you know about interesting places nearby! Your buddy will also bring you Souvenirs, which you can keep track of on the buddy profile page.
- Best Buddy: Become Best Buddies, and your buddy will sport a Best Buddy Ribbon to show off to everyone just how close you two are! Pokémon that you’re Best Buddies with can get a CP boost in combat as long as they’re still assigned as your Buddy Pokémon.
To kick things off, feeding your buddy will increase your Buddy Level to Good Buddy, and your buddy Pokémon will follow you around on the map. Reaching Good Buddy is the starting point of the new system, and you can level up by becoming a better friend with your buddy.
From the development perspective, Niantic has worked a lot with The Pokémon Company in order to bring this feature to life. Ryuta Hiroi, the lead Niantic product manager on the project, shared this with members of the press:
“Since launching Pokémon GO, this might be the most collaborative feature we have had with The Pokémon Company. Even with your phone in your pocket, you’ll feel like your buddy is right beside you!”
Curious to see how Lugia or a Snorlax looks like when moving around? No problem!
Becoming better friends with your buddy
In order to level up, aka become better friends, you need to earn affection. Affection is a new system that measures different activities that you do with your buddy. You can earn affection by doing the following activities alongside your Buddy:
- Walk together
- Give your buddy a treat
- Play together
- Battle together
- Take a snapshot
- Visit a new place
Doing things with your buddy will increase your buddy’s mood as well, and can even raise your buddy’s mood to Excited, the highest mood level that unlocks various perks:
- The distance it takes for your buddy to find Candy will be cut in half.
- The number of hearts earned per action will double.
- Trainers can earn bonus hearts!
It’s currently unclear how affection ties in with the buddy leveling system, and we’re really not sure how many hearts you need to get in order to level up. The mechanics of the new feature are disclosed yet, so our knowledge here is limited.
Judging by Niantic’s verbiage, increasing your Buddy’s mood is your primary course of action throughout the day, and the level up process is something that happens alongside that.
Shared AR Experience
In addition to the new Buddy Adventure feature, Niantic has teased an upcoming shared AR Experience mode that will be launching some time after Buddy Adventure becomes available worldwide.
You will able to sync up with up to two other Trainers, fire up AR+ and take a group photo with your buddy Pokémon. If memory serves us correctly, a similar feature was teased roughly a year ago, titled “AR playground”.
We’re curious to see how Niantic is building this, as shared AR experiences are notoriously difficult to build and maintain. From a technical standpoint, this could be the most significant leap forward for mobile AR in recent memory.
You can see a preview of the feature in the last seconds of the new Buddy Adventure trailer.
There are a few interesting tidbits and questions that arise from Niantic’s blog post, but we don’t have any additional information to answer them:
- Your buddy may help you out in Pokémon encounters. How? This is the first time we’re hearing about Pokémon potentially interacting to each other during encounters. We’re excited to see what Niantic has in store.
- What are Souvenirs? Is it a new collectible item? Does it impact your game play or make your buddy level up?
- You get a CP boost in combat! Woah, maybe our Pikachu buddy will finally be able to take down an Onix like Ash did back in the anime.
There’s a lot to unpack here, and with Niantic being very secretive about the new feature, we’re quite curious to see how it all works together.
Judging by the blog post published today, and by the recent update, we could be seeing this feature in action pretty soon. The post states that Buddy Adventure will roll out by 2020, which implies sometimes in the next two weeks.
Stay tuned for updates!