Pokémon GO is raising the price of remote raid passes, the mobile game announced today. Players used to be able to buy one pass for 100 coins (about $1) or three passes for 250 coins (about $2.50), but the cost of these items will nearly double to 195 coins for one pass, or 525 coins for three passes. Players will now only be able to participate in five raids per day.
Raid battles are a key component in Pokémon GO, requiring players to meet up at a set location in real life to battle an extra strong or rare Pokémon. When much of the world went into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, remote raid passes were initially introduced to enable people to participate in raid battles from afar… and to give its parent company Niantic another income stream. As of last year, Pokémon GO surpassed the milestone of $6 billion in revenue from in-app purchases.
“We believe this change is necessary for the long-term health of the game, and we do not make it lightly,” the Pokémon GO team wrote in a blog post. “We feel this is a necessary step toward our goal of preserving and improving the unique experience of playing Pokémon GO.”
Niantic’s AR-based mobile games are designed to encourage users to explore the world around them, and remote raid passes may seem to contradict that mission — there’s less reason to meet up with other players outside when you can play the game from home. But the feature also made the game more accessible to people who may have mobility issues or other limitations that prevent them from going out to catch ’em all.
Niantic made significant changes to Pokémon GO at the beginning of the pandemic, like making it easier to interact with Pokéstops or gyms from afar. The game also tried to roll back that feature in August 2021, which prompted Pokémon GO influencers to threaten a boycott of the game. Niantic ended up scrapping that plan after the backlash.
As one of the most profitable mobile games ever, Pokémon GO itself isn’t particularly desperate for cash. But it seems like Niantic could be facing headwinds. Niantic was valued at $9 billion in November 2021, when the company openly bashed Meta and declared it would build a “real-world metaverse,” but like many tech companies, the company conducted layoffs last year and cancelled four projects.
Pokémon GO plays a vital role in Niantic’s growth beyond its contributions as a cash cow. Niantic’s plans to build its “AR metaverse” rely on its trove of AR location data, which Pokémon GO has been instrumental in building — players get in-game bonuses if they scan real-life locations in AR. Players don’t need to share AR scans to play Pokémon GO, but perhaps they’re more likely to do so if they’re playing the game outside of their home.