happy Pokemon

Two years after Pokemon Go first took the world of mobile gaming by storm, social features are finally making an appearance. From keeping track of friends to trading Pokemon and in-game gifts, players will finally have more meaningful ways to interact. So, be sure to be nice to anyone you happen to run into while playing, because you never know what illusive critter they may be willing to send your way.

Apparently wishing to wait for the E3 excitement to die down a little, the team over at Niantic today announced that Pokemon Go is finally implementing friends, trading and gift functionality. Up until this point, just about the only way you could interact with other players was to join them in online raid battles. Things are about to get quite a bit more friendly, though, which is probably perfect timing to get things ready for connectivity with this fall's upcoming Pokemon games for the Nintendo Switch.

According to the announcement, the Friends feature will go live later this week, allowing players to connect with their real-life pals in order to interact within the game in a variety of ways. Players will be able to make friends within the game simply by sharing their Trainer Code. As a note, Niantic points out that anyone who has identified themselves as being under 13 years of age will not be able to use friend functionality at launch. We figure that will have to wait until some sort of parental controls can also be added to the game.

As for how you can interact with your friends in Pokemon Go, two other features are also being introduced. First up is gift giving. Niantic is being careful to maintain balance here, so you can't just send your friend a whole bunch of items. Instead, when you spin a Pokestop icon, there's a chance you'll receive a "gift" item that you can't open yourself. Instead, you can send it to a friend, who will receive an in-game postcard featuring the location where the gift was received, a collection of helpful items and even an egg that will let you hatch a Pokemon from Sun and Moon.

Another friendly feature is the ability to up your friendship level with your online pals. Playing Pokemon Go with your friends, sending gifts or participating in Raids or Gym Battles will increase your level. Do that enough and you'll earn additional bonuses, such as an attack bonus in battles.

Finally, the big one, you can finally make trades in Pokemon Go. It's not super straightforward, though. First, you have to be friends with the person. Second, you need to be near each other in the real world. Third, your trades will cost Stardust, an in-game item. The higher your friend level, the less it will cost. Also, Legendary or Shiny Pokemon will cost a lot more Stardust to trade and can only be done once per day. Again, we figure this is all to encourage continued play and keep players from screwing up the game's balance by making multiple accounts and sending all their best Pokemon and items to a single account.

Given the fact that the Pokemon Let's Go games launching this fall will sync with Pokemon Go, this feels like perfect timing for Niantic to work out any unforeseen kinks before Switch players get in on the action.

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