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What Does the Upcoming Gym Raids in Pokemon GO Actually Means

This past week, Pokémon GO was updated with a new patch with a few secrets buried inside. Data miners found a number of key phrases implying changes to gyms were coming, where players will now receive notifications about their “away” Pokémon and their gym status, and there also may be a new mechanic where players must return to gyms to feed their Pokémon in order for them to stay.

But one final item of note was found in the patch that players have yet to fully decipher. It’s a simple pair of phrases that say something along the lines of, “A raid is starting nearby!”

Given that the other items in this patch have to do with gyms, the immediate thought was that maybe there will be a new mechanic that will be a sort of call to arms among teammates from Valor/Instinct/Mystic. You can send out a local message that says you’re about to attack an enemy gym, and perhaps other players will join you.

But since that theory was put forth, there’s an alternate one that I could buy as well: Raids are actually going to be designed for legendary Pokémon encounters.

It was pointed out on /r/PokémonGO that we have seen the words “raid” in GO marketing before, namely the original trailer for the game, seen below:

It says “Raid” with a countdown timer, and yes, this is indeed the scene in Times Square where everyone in the area bands together to do battle with Mewtwo.

I remember when this ad first aired. Like many, I scoffed about whether this was really going to happen in a game like Pokémon GO, but I have since attended meet-ups thousands strong and GO has become a game played by hundreds of millions worldwide, so suddenly this doesn’t seem so goofy any more.

Niantic has promised that legendary Pokémon will appear in 2017, and all indications appear to be that they are still trying to figure out a way to do mass, “official” meet-up events as well, and I have to believe those two things are connected. And I very much doubt the use of “raid” both here and now in this patch data mine is a total coincidence.

So, what would a Legendary Raid be like in Pokémon GO? Rather than something that would be player-created, it would be Niantic-created. Perhaps when the legendary birds/beasts are put into the game, they will be specialized spawns that appear globally, but in specific areas. “A raid is starting near you!” is a cue to all nearby players, that if you want this Legendary, you had better head to this one spot.

Right now, Niantic doesn’t have a way for players to battle/catch one single Pokémon at the same time. The only co-operative play is within gyms. But it’s possible they’re working on an entirely new mechanic for the game to be able to recreate that famous Times Square Mewtwo scene on a larger scale.

I have said before that I am not really a fan of the ideal of “landmark” spawns a way to distribute Legendary Pokémon. I mean, the game is tough enough for rural players, and you’re going to start making people drive for hours to catch specific Pokémon? Please.

But I wonder if raids could be some sort of happy middle ground, where they’re common enough where group meet-up events to catch these Pokémon are not that hard to come by. No, everyone doesn’t live by Times Square or the Space Needle, but their local park? If Niantic can say, figure out what the most popular range of PokéStops are in any given area, then spawn these “raid” events at one of those, this idea might just work after all.

Again, this is all speculation at this point, but now that I’m thinking about it, I’m leaning more toward raids being linked to legendaries than linked to gym takeovers. I mean, maybe they could be both, but I would guess they’d be called something differently if both mechanics were in place.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to either more mined info, or to Niantic talking about this openly themselves. My guess is once summer officially hits, the legendaries will come out and play.