Niantic must reverse Pokemon Go’s Incense changes or risk another boycott

Daniel Megarry
A Pokemon Go trainer next to Incense
Niantic

Recent changes to the way Incense works in Pokemon Go have sparked a backlash among players, with many questioning whether Niantic are listening to the community at all.

When many countries went into lockdown in 2020, one of the best changes Niantic introduced was to make Incense – which attracts Pokemon to your location – more effective when stationary. This meant people could still catch new Pokemon and complete research tasks from the comfort and safety of their homes.

It was also a great change for players in locations with extreme weather conditions, disabled people who can’t always get out and about, or those of us who simply don’t have the time to play for more than a few minutes on their lunch break. Sounds like a win-win situation, right?

But at the beginning of the Season of Alola, out of nowhere, Niantic reversed these changes. While Incense now lasts for 90 minutes instead of 60 minutes, the Pokemon spawn rate when stationary has decreased from one every minute to just one every five minutes.

Orange Incense in Pokemon Go
Niantic / The Pokemon Company
Some players rely on Incense to enjoy Pokemon Go, especially during events.

This is a pretty significant nerf that means the boost in Incense duration actually ends up being a negative for lots of players, something that was especially apparent during March’s Community Day event.

“Having a sh*t health day and can’t even use my favorite game as a distraction anymore,” tweeted one player, while another added, “If you have to work, are disabled, or just have life to deal with… just don’t bother. When will [Niantic] understand this is clearly an unwelcome change?”

It’s all looking very similar to last year’s infamous ‘Pokemon NO Day’ boycott, where players protested the removal of increased PokeStop and Gym interaction distances – an Exploration Bonus that helped promote social distancing.

Some frustrated fans have now started using the hashtag #HearUsNiantic once again in an attempt to get a response from the game’s creators, while others are using a brand new hashtag: #NianticDidntHearUs.

A lack of communication from Niantic and Pokemon Go

The most frustrating thing about this isn’t the Incense change itself, but the lack of proper communication. When the stationary Incense boost was announced in November 2020, Niantic promised to give “at least one month’s notice” before reversing it, but they didn’t do that.

In fact, players in certain parts of the world had only a couple of hours’ notice before the changes to Incense were made.

To make matters worse, details of these changes were hidden away in a generic blog post – which many players will have missed – while the main announcement for the Season of Alola disguised the nerf as a ‘bonus’ that would reward players with “increased Incense effectiveness while moving”.

Pokemon Go Incense
Niantic
Incense is now only worth using if you’re moving around.

The lack of clarity has clearly left many players confused, with Google searches for ‘Incense not working‘ sky-rocketing in the weeks following the change. If a change is so drastic that players think the item isn’t even working anymore, surely that’s a sign that it’s a bad decision?

For many Pokemon Go fans, Incense is essential to their enjoyment of the game. These are premium items, too, with lots of people spending real money on them, so making changes to the way they work without a clear explanation feels more than a little unfair.

Despite promising to improve communication with fans, Niantic have made another misstep with these Incense changes. If they don’t reverse their decision – or at the very least, start listening to the community  – there’s a real risk that they’ll face another major boycott from fans.

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