In the days leading up to this year’s Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago, Illinois on July 14 and 15, developer Niantic is hoping to bring trainers closer together with the additions of two significant social features. Players can now become friends with other players, send gifts, and finally trade Pokémon.
Trading was one of the key features Niantic teased on the eve of Pokémon Go’s release in 2015, which was over 1,000 days ago. Niantic’s development team didn’t forget about this feature, and spent numerous years iterating on it, trying to figure out a way to add it in a way that would be safe for players and not break the balance of the game, a representative of the company told me at E3.
To trade Pokémon, players need to be in close proximity to one another, and be at least level 10. With the exception of Mew, players can trade every Pokémon in the game, but legendary and shiny Pokémon can only be dealt if you are “good” friends with another player.
This is where the new friends list comes into play. You can add any player you come across to your list, which has a cap of 200 people. Each player will be assigned a friend code, and can freely share it with any other trainer. This lengthy code can be copied with a press of a button, and shared via text or on social networks if you so chose.
Trading with friends, raiding with them, and sending gifts back and forth earns you experience that levels up your friendship standing with that particular player. When you reach level one you are “good” friends, level two is “great” friends, three is “ultra” friends, and four is “best” friends. Don’t worry, you can have more than one best friend in the game.
The higher your level, the lower the cost to trade. That’s right, both players will have to pay the same amount of stardust in a trade, which is based on the particular type of Pokémon involved in the transaction, and their abilities and stats. If you want to trade a Lugia for an Articuno, and your friendship level is just good, you’ll have to pay 1,000,000 stardust to complete that transaction. If you wait until you reach best friends level, the stardust fee is reduced to 40,000. “Special” trades like this one can only be conducted once a day. Special trades are for legendary and shiny Pokémon.
We don’t know how long it will take to reach best friends status, but it looks like it has a huge benefit. If you don’t spend a lot of time with some friends, you can still level up your friendship with them when you aren’t playing together. You can send them gifts by clicking their name on the friends list. Gifts can be any item you collect, along with a postcard from a stop or gym you visited. When you send this package over, they receive an alert, and may find an added bonus in their present that you didn’t include. A new 7k egg could randomly appear. This new purple and yellow-colored egg contains exclusive Alola region Pokémon. You wont be able to get these specific Alola critters anywhere but in these eggs. Completing a trade earns you friendship experience points.
As your standing with players grows, you’ll earn attack bonuses and extra balls when raiding with them. If you have multiple friends in a raid, the highest friendship level is the one that is used for the bonuses.
One of the coolest touches in this update is the ability to view your friends’ activities, including a graphic that shows the last Pokémon they caught.
Niantic says trading and the friends list are just the start for new social features that will be added to the game this year. Niantic hopes these additions will turn Pokémon Go into the most sociable game in the world. No release date other than “soon” has been given, but we do know these features will make it into the game before Pokémon Go Fest begins.