This week, Pokémon GO received yet another mundane patch, but like with most of the game’s patches, the real story lies behind the scenes.
We are marching toward summer which means big changes to gym mechanics and the introduction of a new mystery activity called “raids.” Now in this latest update, there’s a new description of raids that includes a XP grant for an achievement called “defeat_raid_pokemon.” That’s a lot more information than we have previously, as some theorized previously a raid could be a rival team or faction raiding a gym, but here, it’s talking about beating a Pokémon specifically.
The folks at Silph Road who dug through this datamine for this information have one theory about what this could mean.
“It appears XP will be granted for defeating a raid Pokémon (possibly an offensive Pokemon attacking a Gym your 'mon is defending), as well as for feeding this Pokémon a berry.”
They still believe that raids may actually be gym-centric activities, given that this command is listed alongside the “feed your Pokémon a berry” mechanic that we’ve seen buried in past updates. Along with changes coming to push notifications, which should notify you the moment your gym/Pokémon is being attack, they think that “raids” could be some Pokémon attacking your gym and you have to “fortify” it by feeding your Pokémon berries. This is somewhat similar to a mechanic in Ingress, which is why they believe this might be the case.
That’s one theory, but I’m not sure if I believe it. I just can’t wrap my head around gym changes being linked to raids, not when now we know that raids involve defeating a Pokémon specifically. Random Pokémon don’t just wander around attacking gyms, that isn’t something that happens in the handheld games, and it would make little sense in Pokémon GO.
I do agree that the berry mechanic could be a defense aspect of gyms going forward, where if your gym is attacked, maybe that’s how you “reinforce” it. It would require active, not passive management of gyms to some degree, and it would likely help high level gyms to increase turnover, along with making Pokémon GO a more active game period. Previously, it was believed berry feeding would be required every few days to make Pokémon stay in a gym, but it might be this. Or it could be both.
But I think raids are going to be an entirely separate mechanic. When you think of “defeating a raid Pokémon,” what comes to mind the context of Pokémon GO? Literally the only thing I’m picturing is the original trailer with players banding together to simultaneously fight Mewtwo in Times Square. Further evidence that this is some kind of group activity are notifications in past updates which say things like “A raid is starting near you!” and the fact that Niantic has said that Legendary Pokémon are arriving this year, and this summer seems like a prime time for that to happen.
I don’t know if “raids” will be a purely Legendary mechanic. They may not need to be. I can see raids spawning say, and extra strong Dragonite or Gyarados or Charizard in the wild that players have to band together to take down (not necessarily to capture). It would be a different sort of fighting mechanic other than what we see in gyms, like taking down a raid boss in an MMO. However, with 11 Legendary Pokémon that need to arrive, I could also imagine there would be more than enough for raids to be a purely Legendary activity if Niantic wanted to go in that direction. What I have a hard time believing is that this is somehow connected to gyms. If it is, I think that’s a big waste of potential.
This new info suggests to me that raids will be an entirely new type of activity for the game, something Pokémon GO desperately needs, and it could also easily serve as a gateway mechanic for Legendaries, if that’s not its sole purpose already. Simultaneously, big changes to gyms and gym defense are probably also coming, which will also be helpful. I think they’re just separate issues.
We will hopefully know more soon, but my guess is that big new changes won’t kick off until June. Until then, we’ll just keep looking at data mines.