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Pokémon Go temporarily changes mechanics to reduce spread of COVID-19

Update: Mojang follows suit with changes to Minecraft Earth

Original story, March 13, 2020: Niantic has introduced a number of temporary changes to location-based mobile title Pokémon Go in an attempt to discourage behaviors that may enhance the spread of COVID-19 (known as novel coronavirus).

The developer has postponed its March Community Day event indefinitely, as Community Days offer rewards to large groups of players meeting and playing together in populated areas.

Additionally, Niantic has decreased distances to hatch Pokémon Eggs, is offering more rewards from PokeStops, and is increasing Pokémon spawn rates -- all effectively allowing players to continue playing and gain increased in-game rewards despite traveling shorter distances and avoiding populated areas.

The in-game store is also offering a one-time purchase bundle of 30 Incense -- an item that spawns Pokemon at the player's location even if they aren't moving -- for 1 PokeCoin. Single PokeCoins can be obtained in-game for free by leaving a Pokémon in a Gym location for a short period of time.

Niantic has also postponed its March Community Day in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

All changes will remain in effect for an indefinite period of time, with the Community Day events postponed until further notice.

"The safety of our global player community is our top priority," said Niantic in a tweet.

"COVID-19 is challenging us and the world to adjust. We're putting our focus on expanding features and experiences in our games that can be enjoyed in an individual setting and that also encourage exploration!"

Update, March 27, 20202: Minecraft Earth developer Mojang has followed suit, changing some core mechanics of its augmented reality mobile game to accommodate social restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We want to help you #FlattenTheCurve," said the Minecraft Earth on TWitter. "To align with COVID-19 precautionary measures, we have made it easier than ever to play Minecraft Earth from home."

Additional reporting by Haydn Taylor.

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