Pokémon Go is great for many things: helping players get exercise, offering plenty of monsters for trainers to capture, and serving up fun events for people to participate in. There's just one department where Pokémon Go been lacking: no online multiplayer. That's all about to change in 2020, according to developer Niantic.
Next year, players will be able to compete against each other online instead of just in the same vicinity IRL, via the new Go Battle League feature. The league will allow players from around the globe connect via matchmaking system to test their mettle against one another's Pokémon squads.
Currently, the way Pokémon Go handles multiplayer is quite lacking, at least when compared with the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch iterations of other Pokémon titles. Trainer Battles will only allow you to battle with players you've reached "Ultra" or "Best" friend rankings with, which can take at least 30 days to accrue. What's more, you can still only battle players who are physically nearby. This has always been one of Pokémon Go's shortcomings,
The Go Battle League is meant to open the world up to players, allowing them to be matched up no matter where they are around the globe. This is how the current battle system works in other Pokémon games across other systems, as of the Nintendo DS generation.
Unfortunately, Niantic didn't offer details on how players can join the new league, how it will work, or really anything at all – beyond the fact that it exists and that trainers must walk to "earn entry." There is, however, additional information coming in a new Dev Insights video scheduled to release in the near future.
Adding global multiplayer to Pokémon Go has huge implications. For one thing, it'll offer players in rural communities with fewer opportunities to play with other people a way to interact with the game more. The game is essentially useless without other people around in real life, so this will open it up to folks who live in remote areas. Luckily, Pokémon spawn at random out in the world, so they should still be able to capture and train formidable enough teams for combat.
What's more, the addition of the Go Battle League will continue to bring Pokémon Go a few steps closer to parity with the Game Boy games and beyond. It's puzzling why Niantic has chosen to purposefully keep the popular mobile game populated with fewer features than titles that released in the '90s and beyond had, especially since players have asked for them in the past.
However, it looks like the developer is finally coming around, bringing the same kinds of experiences from the original Pokémon games. It's still got a long way to go before it's a viable alternative to gaming on your Nintendo 3DS or Switch, but hey, at least Niantic is trying. Meanwhile, if you can't wait for a more traditional Pokémon approach with plenty of new augments, Pokémon Sword and Shield are right around the corner in mid-November.