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Niantic’s Own Version Of Steam, Campfire, Can Fix The Pokemon Go Raid Problem

As a daily Pokemon Go player, raids are by far my biggest pain point. Where you live has always had a huge impact on the kind of experience you’ll have with Pokemon Go, but the nature of raiding as a group activity has always excluded players in less-populated areas to some degree. Even as a resident of Orange County, the fifth biggest county in the country, I consistently struggle to find active, populated raids nearby. The introduction of Remote Raid Passes in 2020 further compounded the issue by creating a convenient, paid alternative that eliminates all of the hurdles that in-person raiding presents. You don’t have to leave your house, you don’t have to work around raid timers, and you don’t have to organize with other players. Niantic recently increased the price of Remote Raid Passes and stopped offering them in weekly one-coin bundles, seemingly to deincentivize raiding remotely. This decision has unsurprisingly proved unpopular with the community. As I wrote previously, making remote raiding more expensive doesn’t fix the problems with in-person raiding.

Thankfully, Niantic has been working on a solution to the raid problem. During the Summer Game Fest Play Days in Los Angeles this weekend, I got to see a demo of Campfire, an soon-to-be-released social app that integrates with all of Niantic’s games, Pokemon Go included, to help players find each other and organize for group activities like raids. Campfire offers features that are desperately needed, and based on what I’ve seen, it could go a long way to solve Pokemon Go’s biggest problem.

Niantic sees Campfire as its own version of Steam. It’s both a social hub and an overlay that improves Pokemon Go. When it launches this summer, you’ll be able to access some of its features within Pokemon Go – no need to switch between apps. The demo I saw wasn’t finalized, but it gave me a good idea of how Campfire will work. When you open your nearby raid menu in Go, there will be a new Campfire option, which opens a new map. The campfire map shows all of the gyms and raids nearby, and unlike the regular Pokemon Go map which restricts the visible area to a few kilometers, the Campfire map can be freely explored.

The key feature designed to make raiding easier is called flares. If you’re near a raid, you can send up a flare to let other players know you need help. Flares are unlimited, free, and stay active for ten minutes – though you can only use a flare at one raid at a time. The raids that players have sent flares from will show a number on the map, indicating how many people are there, ready to raid. If you see a nearby flare, you can send up your own, which tells the other players you’re on your way, and invites more players to come join the raid too.

Niantic is hoping that flares will have a snowball effect that leads to big groups of players grouping up at a raid. Once a group forms, they may decide to stick together and move to another nearby raid, attracting even more players to join as they go. Those players can also use Campfire’s Discord-like channels and group chats to plan meetups and invite each other to raids directly. Players can even share their location through Campfire so that other players can find them easier if they want to meetup between raids.

The ability to see where other players intend to raid will be a game changer for raiding, and hopefully, the chat features will help people in low-population areas find each other. I initially bristled at the idea of a separate app for managing Pokemon Go – I have two of those already – but the integration, from what I’ve seen, is virtually frictionless. As an overlay, Campfire largely feels like a new feature in Pokemon Go rather than a separate tool. These aren’t the raid solutions I had envisioned, but I’m convinced that Campfire is going to make in-person raiding possible for a lot more people.

The release date for Campfire hasn’t been announced, but Niantic says it will be available in Pokemon Go sometime this summer. The social channels will be restricted to creators and testers at first, but eventually anyone will be able to make their own chat channels to organize local raid events. Ultimately, remote raiding will always be more convenient and accessible than in-person raiding, but if Campfire can reduce the hurdle of finding players to raid with, I’ll consider it a huge success.

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