GDC snapshot: keeping Pokémon GO alive during the COVID pandemic

Light bites from Niantic’s panel detail managing the world’s largest AR game during a global lockdown

GDC snapshot: keeping Pokémon GO alive during the COVID pandemic

The Niantic panel, Kellee Santiago, director of external publishing, Matt Slemon, senior product manager, Danbi Lee, senior product manager, and Michael Steranka, director of Pokémon GO, discuss some of the critical challenges faced by Pokémon GO during the COVID pandemic, and the hard lessons learned.

  • There was significant backlash from the fanbase against the changes made to accommodate players being unable to leave, arguing many of the gameplay changes were favourable
  • One of the core pillars of Pokémon GO is exploration, which became harder to define during efforts to bring players back into the real world (on establishing the correct distance for players to interact with a Pokéstop, Santiago said: “I have never spent so much time and had so many conversations about tuning a single mechanic”)
  • Pikmin Bloom, developed over the pandemic, has been designed to more strongly align within, according to Santiago, “the context of someone’s life”; to complement their lifestyle


Former editor of, Khai can also be found on Vice, Star Trek, and in numerous scientific journals and publications.