Developer Niantic has announced that huge summer updates are coming to Pokémon Go that will bring a number of long-awaited features to the smash-hit mobile game.
The additions include fully revamped Gyms and Gym Badges, as well as co-operative "Raid Battles" where friends can team up to battle powerful bosses for in-game rewards and glory.
The first free update, which is rolling out today (19 June), completely transforms the current Gym mechanic in the Android and iOS title, where players compete with rival teams for control over real-world landmarks.
After being taken offline in recent weeks, The Pokémon Company has confirmed that Gyms will return with a focus on collaboration.
"Gyms will now feature six permanent slots that can be filled by the controlling team's Pokémon, and opposing teams will battle Pokémon in the order they were assigned to the Gym," Niantic explained in a press release. "The new motivation system introduces an interactive factor for Pokémon assigned to a Gym that will impact their potential Combat Power (CP).
"Pokémon defending a Gym will lose motivation over time and as they are defeated, lowering their effective CP and making it easier for opposing teams to defeat them. However, Trainers from the same team can give defending Pokémon Berries to keep them motivated."
In a nod to the main series of games based on Nintendo's pocket monsters, trainers can now obtain Gym Badges that offer bonus items and rewards. The updated Gyms will also appear on Pokémon Go's GPS-powered map as discs, like the game's PokéStops, which can be spun for additional items.
The most exciting addition for many, however, will be Raid Battles, which Niantic stated is arriving "in the weeks ahead." The mode features a code-system that allows the game's 65 million players to join forces in live Pokemon battles for the first time on mobile.
"Trainers will have the opportunity to team up with others nearby and work together to defeat extremely powerful Pokémon known as Raid Bosses. Raid Battles are timed in-game events that will temporarily take over a Gym, providing Trainers from all teams the chance to visit the Gym and group up together to challenge the Raid Boss and potentially earn special new items along with an opportunity to catch these Pokémon."
Pokémon Go quickly became a global phenomenon following its launch in July 2016 and has been been downloaded an incredible 650 million times on the Google Play Store and Apple's App Store.
In order to keep players interested, Niantic has run a number of seasonal events and updated the game with new features. In February, Pokémon Go enjoyed its biggest update yet by introducing almost all of the monsters from the second generation of Pokémon games.
While the co-operative "Raids" and retooled Gyms are likely to go down well, fans are still waiting to see the rare and all-powerful Legendary Pokémon and player-versus-player battles. Niantic exec Mathieu de Fayet previously teased that both are in the works and will arrive sometime this summer.