In context: Covid-19 has forced many people inside due to stay-at-home mandates and other regulations meant to keep the virus at bay. Niantic is hoping to adapt its games meant for outdoor use for your home instead.
Concerns over Covid-19 have led to numerous shelter-in-place mandates and calls to exercise social distancing to limit the spread of the virus. This has the unfortunate side effect of limiting activities that encourage being around people such as Pokémon Go. The game actively rewards players for walking around town to catch Pokémon or challenge gym leaders with their friends. Fortunately, developer Niantic is planning for updates that improve playing the game at home.
The company announced that it's updating Adventure Sync to track indoor movements and activities better. That means even engaging in mundane activities like cleaning the house or running on a treadmill will count towards in-game achievements.
On the social front, Niantic says that they're enhancing social features to help players stay in contact with their friends. This includes allowing players to share memories about real-world places and allow their friends to "virtually visit" those locations. There are also plans to attend a Pokémon Go Fest from your home although the details aren't specified yet.
For many Pokémon Go players, one of the more enjoyable activities is going on raids with friends. Niantic wants players to be able to engage in raid battles with their friends from home but it isn't quite clear how that will happen. However, the developer launched the Go Battle League that allows you to play anywhere you are. This new battle system reduced the walking requirements to zero (meaning you don't have to walk anywhere) and discounted Incense and Poké balls to allow capturing Pokémon without leaving your home. Perhaps raid battles will operate similar to the Go Battle League system.
Pokémon Go isn't the only game Niantic is updating for social distancing. Their first game, Ingress, has been changed to encourage play while at home and reduce the need to interact at multiple Portals. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has been updated to increase the amount of content located near you. Potions have been adjusted to allow Foundables to spawn directly at a player's home.
That said, Niantic isn't necessarily discouraging people from going outside for walks:
"In areas where it is permitted by local authorities, outdoor walks, practiced with proper social distancing, will continue to be a great way to contribute to physical and mental well being and you'll still be able to play our games while you do that. The changes we are making offer an alternative when that’s not possible."
It's difficult to know when things will go back to normal but it's great to see changes that allow gamers to play their favorite games despite the current circumstances.