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Pokémon Go co-op features soon to come, Niantic hints

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Niantic wants to get players back outside

Chris Grant/Polygon

Pokémon Go sounds like it’s on the upswing. Niantic recently celebrated the game passing 65 million active users, and it’s racked up several awards in recent months. Most exciting for players is the hint that co-op gameplay is coming to the largely single-player experience.

“With spring arriving in the northern hemisphere, players can look forward to all new cooperative social gameplay experiences in Pokémon Go that will give Trainers new and exciting reasons to get back into the sunshine,” the company wrote in a blog post that rounded up many of Pokémon Go’s critical achievements.

The researchers who frequent The Silph Road forum quickly zeroed in on the “new cooperative social gameplay experiences” bit. They’d seen something that fit the bill when digging through the game’s updated code. Dataminers on a private Discord for Pokémon Go players found lines of code about “nearby raids” and updated gym features.

The raids concept is still vague. The datamined code suggests that the game will give players notifications about nearby raids beginning in the vicinity. That certainly sounds like a cooperative experience, galvanizing players to group up and play the game together.

The original teaser for Pokémon Go hinted at time-sensitive raids. Take a look back to the video from fall 2015, which shows what this feature may look like in the finished game:

As for the gym-related pieces of the datamine, The Silph Road speculates that they’ll involve shaking up how long Pokémon can hold onto their posts. There’s lines of code indicating that Pokémon may be forced out of a gym by other players, perhaps as part of raids or in a larger overhaul of the feature.

The Silph Road group is still verifying the update’s hidden lines of code, but the consensus is that Niantic’s hint means a major gym overhaul is coming this spring.

Members of Niantic have spoken out before about their dissatisfaction with how gyms work in Pokémon Go. CEO John Hanke told Wired’s German site that the team was making it top priority to fix gyms, which feel more one-sided and repetitive than most players would like.

Senior product manager Tatsuo Nomura said a similar thing when we spoke at Game Developers Conference 2017.

“We’re an MMO, and we expect people to play with other people,” he told us.

That sure sounds like gyms will be the key way to bring more Pokémon Go players together. Now that warm weather’s on its way, it’s the perfect time to institute some huge changes along these lines for the mobile game.