The Pandemic Bonuses Are Really, Finally Ending In Pokémon GO

We finally know what's happening to the pandemic bonuses in Pokémon GO. Buckle up, because this is… a lot.

Graphic in Pokémon GO. Credit: Niantic
Graphic in Pokémon GO. Credit: Niantic

The bonuses leaving Pokémon GO

Niantic announced that the following bonuses will be removed or changed in Pokémon GO:

Over the past year, Incense effectiveness was increased to attract Pokémon to you more frequently, even if you weren't able to leave home. After the change, this effectiveness will be set at the standard level when you're stationary and increased effectiveness will kick in when you are moving.

Now, this is vague… which is on-brand for Niantic. I say that this is vague because Niantic previously pulled back on the pandemic bonuses, and returned Incense to a "new normal." Essentially, Incense seemed to be spawning a Pokémon every 90 seconds rather than every 50 or so. This seemed fine to me personally, but backlash led to Niantic reintroducing the fully buffed Incense. If we do get that semi-buffed Incense as the norm, I think that is fully understandable… but if we get the "You may get five Pokémon the entire time this is active" Incense of the past, they might as well just not have Incense as a thing at all. Pre-pandemic, it was peerless as the most useless item in the game… and was then buffed to make it easily the best. Only time will tell if we're going to get the reasonable nerf to the Incense, or if Niantic will just absolutely nuke it.

Previously, your Buddy Pokémon brought you more Gifts each day, up to five gifts at once and up to three times a day. This was because we knew Trainers were running low on supplies like Poké Balls and berries to help them catch Pokémon. As we move to encouraging Trainers to play outside more, they can continue to receive supplies from spinning PokéStops. After the change, the frequency of these gifts from Buddy Pokémon will be reduced.

This one was expected. Of all the bonuses in Pokémon GO, this was surely the least effective one to daily gameplay and certainly, the one we all knew would eventually go away.

Previously, PokéStop and Gym interaction distances were increased, to enable people to engage from further away. After this change the distance will revert back to the standard distance, when it makes sense in different places, though may be increased during future events and as part of certain features.

This surprises me. Niantic once categorized this as a permanent change. However, they did take this statement back. Where, you might ask? On the official Pokémon GO blog? On any official Pokémon GO platform? Nah. As a Reddit comment.

While I personally agree that some bonuses should be pulled back in order to reinvigorate the community to follow the original inspiration behind Pokémon GO, to say that the playerbase deserves better and clearer communication is an understatement.

Will Remote Raiding change?

Now, the main question many players had was in regards to Remote Raids. Currently, the ability for remote raiders to do the same amount of damage as in-person raiders is considered a pandemic bonus. Niantic are a bit less quick to remove that one from Pokémon GO. They wrote:

Remote Raids have become an important part of the game this past year and we're going to continue evolving them. Our intention is to find the right balance between remote play and in-person play, so stay tuned for more details in the coming months. Many of these in-person raid changes will be to prepare for the eventual return of EX Raids.

The bonuses staying active in Pokémon GO

Finally, they offered a list of the bonuses that will become main features of the game:

Incense duration will remain at 60 minutes.

Makes sense, and feels like a good move… if they nerf Incense to the mid-boost and not to the original uselessness.

No walking requirement for GO Battle League.

This is not news. This was announced as a permanent change in Pokémon GO some time ago.

You can challenge any Trainer remotely with a QR Code, and the requirement to battle with friends remotely has been lowered to Good Friends.


The maximum number of Gifts you can carry in your Item Bag at a time will remain at 20.

Also a good move, though this is such a random pandy bonus that I didn't even associate it with the bonuses anymore.

Trainers will be able to open up to 30 Gifts per day, up from the previous 20.

You will continue to receive three times the Stardust and XP for your first Pokémon catch of the day.

I end up thinking that most of this is fair with the possible exception of the PokéStop reach reduction, which seems pretty petty. The biggest problem here is the communication leading up to this announcement and where that communication happens. Every bit of information should be on the Pokémon GO blog and should appear as a pop-up in the app. Instead, the community has to go to Niantic's various Twitter platforms and search Reddit comment threads in order to keep up. There needs to be a streamlining of information, and a blog like this is a step in the right direction… though if you take a look at the community reaction thus far, it feels as if it may be a bit too little, too late when this laundry list of changes is put out without Niantic addressing the current controversial update.

Stay tuned for more information on these changes coming to Pokémon GO as updates come in. Tomorrow, we'll cover details of the new "Exploration Bonus," which Niantic will introduce post-GO Fest 2021 to encourage players to get back out in the world.

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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