The parent company to Pokémon GO, Niantic has been very clear over the years that it wants us to take a “stupid walk for our stupid mental health,” as the meme goes. This week, Pokémon GO is rolling out a “daily adventure incense,” which brings “rare” Pokémon to you, so long as you’re in motion. This functions like the incense item that’s been in the game for years, but you get one for free each day and it only lasts for fifteen minutes.
The augmented reality giant wants to pioneer what it calls the “real-world metaverse” or games and other apps that bring you out into the real world. Pokémon GO already incentivizes players to go on walks to hatch eggs, find new Pokémon and participate in raid battles. But daily adventure incense basically tells players that they can get rare Pokémon if they take a 15-minute walk around the block. This is especially helpful for players who live in rural areas and don’t have the luxury of opening their app to see several creatures spawn.
Pokémon Go’s definition of “rare” is a bit liberal here, though. Most of the spawns are pretty average, like Bidoof, Yanma or Rattata, but there’s a key exception. Some users have reported spawns of legendary Pokémon, like the Galarian forms of Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres (so far, after two days of adventure incense, I’ve just been building up my Bidoof army). These legendary spawns are actually relatively rare, and the Pokémon can, indeed, flee your attempt to capture it, leaving some people angry on social media.
But even if you don’t catch anything interesting, you still get a cute little graphic to share.
It’s hard for games like Pokémon GO, which are best played while walking around, to be completely accessible. Blind and low-vision users already have trouble playing augmented reality games, but the need to go on a 15-minute walk can feel alienating for disabled people who can’t walk easily, or (Bidoof forbid) people contagious with the coronavirus who should not be walking outside in public places.
But daily adventure incense is only a small part of the greater game. As long as this feature doesn’t gatekeep any exclusive Pokémon, it shouldn’t be too controversial — however, so far, it seems this is the only way to get the Galarian legendary birds. Then again, Niantic never locks any specific Pokémon for too long. Do you know how it feels to travel overseas and stock up on Asia-only Pokémon to trade, only for Niantic to just drop Farfetch’d and Torkoal into ordinary events? I do. So, it won’t be a surprise if these Pokémon show up in raids and research rewards sooner than later.
Pokémon GO has remained Niantic’s cash cow (or Miltank), earning over $1 billion in revenue last year. But Niantic hasn’t successfully replicated the six-year-old game’s success. In the midst of a greater market downturn, Niantic cancelled some projects and laid off 8% of its staff last month.