Testing Incense Effectivity In Pokémon GO Post-COVID 19 Bonuses

Yesterday, Niantic began to pull back on the bonuses introduced to Pokémon GO to make the game playable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as parts of the world begin to return to some kind of normalcy, Niantic have removed the increased Pokéstop distance, buffed Buddy gifts, and hyper-effective Incense from the United States and New Zealand. This is, as any initiative with the phrase "post-COVID" involved, a highly controversial move. For now, I'll leave the debate to social media, where everyone will surely come prepared with nuanced opinions that are open to the input of others. I'm here today to conduct an experiment. Now that the Incense has been nerfed, how frequently do Pokémon spawn for stationary players?

Incense in Pokémon GO. Credit: Niantic
Incense in Pokémon GO. Credit: Niantic

Here's the basics of what I'm hoping to find out: has Incense returned to its original state of the abysmal ten or fewer spawns per hour that existed pre-COVID or is it now set at the one-spawn-every-two-minutes rate we saw briefly introduced last fall? Either way, here's my data going in.

  • The hyper-buffed Incense during the pandemic bonuses spawned Pokémon approximately every 55 seconds. This varied slightly, as activity in the game (for example, clicking on the shop) has historically triggered these spawns to come on time if they're not showing up on the map. One every 55 seconds does, though, seem to be the rate this was set at.

Now, with the bonus removed in my location, here is my data after running a full hour of Incense:

  • When observing spawns but not interacting with the spawns, Pokémon most often appeared in exactly one-minute intervals. I observed a Bunnelby appear with 53:46 remaining on the Incense, an Omanyte at 52:46, and a Kabuto at 51:46. This is very consistent, placing the spawn rate at one Pokémon per minute. This is barely a nerf at all.
  • When interacting with the Pokémon, the data changes slightly, but this is likely a quirk of one's WiFi or service rather than an indication of how quickly spawns appear. When catching Pokémon or toggling between different screens in the game (for example, opening Gifts between spawns), the quickest time between spawns was 56 seconds and the longest wait between spawns was 70 seconds.
  • I can confidently finalize my observation that the nerfed Incense offers approximately one spawn per minute.

I then went out for a walk to time the Incense while walking with the new "Exploration Bonus." The rate was consistent and clear:

  • When walking while running an Incense, Pokémon will now spawn every 45 seconds.

All of this to say: both the buff on Incense while walking and the nerf on Incense while stationary is virtually unnoticeable if you aren't timing the spawns down to the exact second.

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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