Routes are coming to Pokémon GO: Everything we know at the moment!

Niantic confirms that Routes are coming to Pokémon GO! Members of the press got a chance to play around with them. Here is everything we know at the moment, from creating a Route to walking it!

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At a recent Summer Games Fest event in Los Angeles, members of the press were allowed to demo two upcoming Pokémon GO features: PokéStop Showcases and Routes. We got to see the Route feature in action as well, but in a separate event, a bit earlier than LA.

Although we are not allowed to show any images of the Routes feature, we are allowed to tell you more about the feature itself, and offer a glimpse at a future of exploration in Pokémon GO.

We are very, very, excited about Routes, and we think Niantic has gotten them right at this stage of the product development cycle, so we are actually quite eager to tell you more about them.

Do note that a lot of the strings which are currently supporting the Route feature were data mined recently, and you can go through those to figure out what Niantic is thinking right now. However, be advised that all of that can change, especially with a feature like Routes.

What are Routes exactly?

Routes are a new type of exploration coming to Pokémon GO, where Trainers can record their walking paths and share it with the wider Pokémon GO community.

A Route can be anything, from a scenic walk across the nearby hillside, to your daily dog walking route. Niantic wants players to feel free to express themselves, and they told us that they do not want to suppress Trainer creativity.

The only thing they plan to suppress are potentially offensive or inappropriate Routes, such as Routes going through forbidden areas, or Routes shaped like inappropriate body parts or symbols.

But that’s about it – Routes are a truly free-form type of User Generated Content that Pokémon GO is getting. Routes don’t actually work as Ingress Missions, which was a long running belief in the Pokémon GO community, they are completely free-form, akin to recording a walk with Strava, or another fitness tracking app.

Niantic’s Chad Jones, Senior Product Manager, is driving this feature, and has shared some of the thinking behind Routes, and especially how they differ from Ingress Missions:

“If you’re walking around a new area, there’s a huge difference between exploring on your own and having somebody there for you like a guide that can take you to areas you may not know about. Magical moments, secret gardens, hidden staircases, cool art murals that are in back alleys, stuff you wouldn’t know about unless somebody showed you. With Routes, you’re going to be able to share that knowledge and access it by following the footsteps of fellow Trainers.” – source

GO Fest 2022

How do you create a Route?

Creating a Route is very easy – you basically open the game, activate the feature, select a starting PokéStop and you are ready to walk. While walking, the game will show an outline of the newly recorded Route underneath the Trainer avatar, giving you a good understanding of what the Route is going to look like in the end.

You actually need only one PokéStop (or a Gym) for a Route to be created, as Routes can be circular, and can start and end at the same PokéStop.

Once you are done recording the Route,  you will be able to add a name, description, and tags for your new Route. Your Trainer name can also be added, or you can remain anonymous, the decision is up to you as the Route’s creator.

Trainers creating a Route can also decide which image the Route Badge will show, but those are sourced from existing PokéStop/Gym photos, and they are not user uploaded at the moment of creating a Route. 

Are there any Bonuses to walking a Route?

Once a Route is created and approved (more on that later), you should be able to discover it and follow it as a normal player. You can even re-walk your own Routes, there is no difference between your and someone else’s Route.

Walking a Route will unlock a number of bonuses for the Trainer, but Niantic is very secretive on the particulars. What we do know is that things like XP rewards, some passive bonuses and increased Pokémon spawns will be applied. Again, Jones commented on this, with a nod towards the rural community:

“The idea is that there are Pokémon you’re able to catch along Routes, so there’s that benefit, and you’re actually getting the buffs that are applied to you as well. It actually becomes a very good source of XP. So again, like you’re in a rural area, walking around, and you need better sources of XP, Routes become something that can hopefully become fundamental to the gameplay in a way that really elevates it for various communities.” – source

Pokémon GO new app icon showing something akin to Routes

How is Niantic planning to moderate Routes?

Now, when it comes to Route moderation, we found Niantic’s plans to be pretty crazy, and absolutely great if they work out. 

Every Route submission will go through a moderation process, where parts of that process are driven by AI / computers, and other parts are human driven.

The automated part of the process will parse the Route’s GPS and text data to see if it goes through a dangerous area, a restricted zone, if it contains insulting language etc, but it will be human moderators who are responsible for reviewing the Route through a satellite view to spot offensive symbols, etc.

The crazy part of this is that Niantic’s goal – and they said it multiple times – is that they hope to be able to approve or deny a Route submission within 24 hours of a Trainer submitting it.

Parting words and release date?

Unfortunately, that’s about everything that we can tell you about Routes at this moment, especially since we are not allowed to share any images of the feature.

We have been not made aware of a release date as of now, but our gut feeling is that it will take some time to roll out and scale this feature. User generated content is hard, especially when it comes to moderating it, so don’t expect Routes to launch next week.

So… how does it actually look and feel when Routes are live in the app? Honestly, it looks and feels great!

The part that makes it especially exciting for us is that Trainers are finally getting some way of “communicating” to other Trainers. All of us know great walking paths in our local areas, but the interesting part is what happens when you come to a different area.

I cannot wait to start walking and exploring in someone else’s footsteps, and it’s this aspect of the game that makes it exciting. It’s like a new layer on top of the existing overworld map, and if this is successful we hope it is not the last new layer that we will see!

If you are looking for more coverage on the topic, Dot Esports has an article and Eurogamer has an article as well, but it’s focused on quality in Pokémon GO, rather than Routes.

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Zeroghan started the Hub in July 2016 and hasn't had much sleep since. A lover of all things Pokémon, web development, and writing.

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