Smartphone game developer Niantic revealed on its official blog on Monday that Pokémon GO players will soon be able to participate in Raid Battles with friends from home. The smartphone game's official website added on Tuesday that the distance from which players can interact with Gyms is also temporarily doubled. The update is part of Niantic's response to the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
The blog post also revealed that Adventure Sync will soon track indoor movement and activities. Players will be able to "virtually visit and share memories about their favorite real-world places." Niantic is revising its plans for its annual summer live events and teased that players will be able to participate in Pokémon GO Fest from their homes.
Other updates Niantic recently made to Pokémon GO in response to the spread of COVID-19 include removing walking requirements for GO Battle League, offering discounted Incense and Poké Balls, increasing Gift storage, increasing spawns, reducing Egg hatch distance requirements, increasing Stardust and XP catch bonuses, and extending or canceling current in-game Raid events.
In addition, The Pokémon Company announced on Tuesday that it has canceled the 2020 North America International Championships and 2020 Pokémon World Championships due to COVID-19. The company will honor invitations to this year's Championships for the 2021 events. This year's Play! Pokémon Championship Series is suspended, and all planned events are canceled. The 2020 North America International Championships were scheduled for June 26 to 28 in Columbus, Ohio, while the Pokémon World Championships were set for August 14 to 16 in London, United Kingdom.
The first reported cases of COVID-19 were in Wuhan, China in December, and then the disease began to spread in varying rates and intensities across many parts of the globe through incubation in human hosts. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a world health emergency on January 30, and announced on March 11 that it is classifying the outbreak as a pandemic. As of Tuesday, the WHO reported that there are 754,948 infected individuals worldwide. 36,571 individuals have died from the disease.
As of Tuesday, the WHO reported that Japan has 1,953 cases of COVID-19 with 56 deaths. These numbers do not include the number of cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama. That cruise ship had 712 infected passengers with seven deaths.
Sources: Niantic's blog, Pokémon GO's website (link 2), The Pokémon Company's website