Online Battles Coming to Pokemon Go in Early 2020

Don't look at me!!

Pokemon Go players have long clamored for the ability to battle trainers that aren’t within spitting distance. Today, developer Niantic finally announced that yes, such wondrous things will be possible in “early 2020,” following the debut of a new online PvP mode called “Go Battle League.”

“Trainers will be able to walk in order to earn entry into the GO Battle League, then battle opponents from around the globe through an online matching system and rise in the ranks of the league,” Niantic said in its announcement. “We hope this feature will make the Pokemon GO battling experience more competitive and accessible to more Trainers.”

Niantic doesn’t clarify the numbers around Go Battle League match entry, so there’s no word yet on how much walking will be required, or how many matches you’ll get to play for all that walking. Since Pokemon Go has always been designed to keep you perennially involved in its machinations, I feel safe in guessing that it won’t be a one-time transaction. Niantic says that further details will arrive in the form of a Dev Insights video “soon,” so there’s plenty of nebulous future dates to look forward to with this announcement.

Even with as little information as is available right now, this seems like good news for people who live outside of major metropolitan areas, and who might not have regular access to other players. I’d have to drive ten minutes to get to my nearest PokeStop, and if I wanted to battle another trainer I’d just have to hope that someone else was there. And even if someone was there, it’s not like I can just match-make with them from the privacy of our own cars — local trainer battles require that one trainer physically go and scan a QR code on another trainer’s phone.

And then what? Do I have to continue to make eye contact with this person after the battle starts? What if they try to talk to me? What if they’re a sore loser? What if they want to become friends, either within the context of Pokemon Go‘s friends list, or worse, here in the real world? What if they ask to borrow money? What if they ask for a ride to the next PokeStop, and yeah it’s only like a five minute walk down the road, but you know how the visibility is on the roads around here, and it’s pretty late anyway, so if I could just give them a ride real quick that’d be awesome, but while we’re in the car they send like, 15 text messages, and once we get to the next PokeStop there’s a whole bunch of guys there who beat me up and steal my iPhone and 2007 Toyota Corolla S?

But with Go Battle League, all I have to do is walk a few laps around my neighborhood at 4 a.m. when no one will see me in peace, and afterwards I can trainer battle against someone over the internet like God intended. Seems like a much safer and better system!