After a brief “construction” period the new gyms in Pokémon GO are live, revamping the old systems in favor of something that developer Niantic hopes will be more dynamic and less inaccessible to the vast majority of players. If you go out into the world you can see it now: the gyms not only have new, more elaborate in-game icons but also new “lobby” areas as well. There isn’t much combat at them yet, because of course they just went live.
There are a few major changes. Firstly, there are a bunch more gyms. Just that basic fact might make them turnover a bit more, though it could also just give top players more gyms to hold down with vast armies of powerful Pokémon. That’s made possible by the fact that gyms now also yield items like Pokéstops, and so Niantic was able to upgrade a bunch of old Pokéstops into gyms.
Secondly, the way we take and hold gyms is now different. There are a maximum of six Pokémon slots at any given gym now, and allied trainers can’t put two of the same Pokémon into one gym. Instead of “Prestige” we now have “Motivation,” which determines how motivated a given Pokémon is to remain at a gym. If it loses in battle, it loses motivation and might just go on home, though friendly trainers can restore motivation by feeding it berries. You get stardust and XP for battling at gyms and feeding berries to Pokémon, as well as free Pokécoins for Pokémon you’ve got out defending gyms.
Lastly, we’ve got gym badges, which insert a new sort of progression system previously missing from the gym system. You get a gym badge for visiting a gym, which you can level up by interacting with that same gym. The better badge you have from the gym, the better rewards you can get from it by visiting it the next time. They also serve as mementos of sorts from your travels.
It will take a few days before we can actually see how these things work: I took a short trip outside and plunked down a trio of Exeggutor at some neighborhood gyms, but it’s hard to get a read on a system like this until more people start putting down creatures, turning over gyms and fighting. My initial take is that it’s hard to imagine how these new changes could actually encourage people to interact with the lackluster combat system any more than they do, but we’ll see.
Next up is raids, which are contained within the latest update but don’t seem to have been activated. Things are changing, and we’ll see if it’s good enough to actually make a difference in the game.