Pokémon Go developer Niantic has announced changes to the raid system, impacting the accessibility of this part of the game. Remote raids are made more expensive and limited starting April 6th, while in-person raids are incentivized. For disabled (and rural) players, this has an immediate impact on Pokémon Go’s accessibility.
Raids are group battles against often special Pokémon at real world locations called Gyms. Winning a raid gives rewards as well as a chance at catching the Pokémon. Before the pandemic, players needed to be close to that location to join a raid. Remote raid passes were introduced in the pandemic to allow players to join raids at a distance, and even across the world when invited.
Aside from enabling safe play during lockdowns, the remote raids unlocked a part of the game for many players. Rural players may not have gyms nearby, and disabled players may not be able to physically reach a gym. Immunocompromised players may not be able to safely attend busy locations even without a pandemic to worry about. Remote raid passes removed that barrier to play.
Ever since the alleged ending of the pandemic, changes have been made to the game to incentivize players to go out more. Sadly these changes often pose limits, instead of applying a bonus. An example has been incense, an item that triggers Pokémon to spawn at the player’s location. It was boosted to allow more spawns and last longer. This was reverted to a 30 minute duration with one spawn per 5 minutes unless a player is on the move. There is also a free daily incense that gives a chance at encountering special or rare Pokémon, but that does nothing while stationary.
Nothing is free in a free-to-play game, so items do cost in-game currency called Pokécoins. Coins can be bought, but the game allows players to earn a maximum of 50 Pokécoins a day by placing their Pokémon in gyms. Certain items may be earned by completing in-game activities. As you can guess, earning coins or items requires players to have access to gyms or other locations. This is already a point where certain aspects of the game incur an additional cost for disabled players. Accessibility behind a paywall, or as it’s more commonly called: a disability tax.
Access to remote raid passes was already limited to the in-game shop. Where a pass cost 100 coins, roughly the equivalent of 1 US dollar. A normal raid pass has the same price. The change will see the cost go up to 195 coins, or 175 each when bought in a 3 pack. Normal raid passes stay at the same price, and get a new 3 pack with a 50 coin discount. This is a significant difference.
A limit to play
The amount of passes a player can hold at one time is limited to three. One exception is buying a 3 pack with two remote passes already in the inventory. This will allow players to hold 5 remote raid passes. Players can also join a maximum of 5 raids remotely on a day, aside from events. As some form of compensation, one remote raid pass can be earned from Research Breakthroughs if a player is not at the three pass limit. These breakthroughs are earned from completing at least one research task a day, on 7 separate days. In contrast, players with access to gyms and Pokéstops can get one free raid pass a day. The free pass is a single use item for in-person raids, and a player can only hold one. There is no limit on the number of normal raid passes or raids for in-person players.
The changes aren’t completely unexpected, as the remote raid passes were introduced as a temporary addition. One positive about this announcement could be that it seems the remote raid passes will remain a part of the game. It is just sad to see features that have an overwhelmingly positive impact on accessibility be reverted for the sake of a vision. A vision on gameplay that seemingly does not consider disabled players as equals. Niantic has shown their ability to make positive changes to Pokémon Go, improving its accessibility. I hope they can find a better balance between their goal of getting players outside to explore, and the equal inclusion of those who can not.