Pokemon Go's most controversial feature has another major flaw that is hurting its youngest segment of players.
Earlier this year, Pokemon Go announced it was testing EX Raids, a new kind of special Raid that can only be accessed via an invitation. The big draw of EX Raids is that they're currently the only way for players to battle and capture Mewtwo, the game's most powerful and arguably most wanted Pokemon.
However, the EX Raids are pretty unpopular with players for a lot of reasons. The invitation process seems incredibly arbitrary and rewards players who spend money competing in multiple raids per day. The same players also seem to keep getting EX Raid invites, leaving out the vast majority of the fanbase.
But one flaw of the current EX Raids system isn't getting brought up much: namely that the bulk of EX Raids excludes Pokemon Go players under the age of 13.
The problem with kids and EX Raids is that most EX Raids are currently taking place at sponsored gyms. In the United States, Starbucks and Sprint both paid Pokemon Go money to turn the majority of their store locations into either PokeStops or gyms. Other countries have sponsors too, and it seems that Niantic is holding EX Raids at sponsored locations as much as possible.
However, several countries have laws on the books against advertising to kids, and Niantic was petitioned to abolish Sponsored locations by an organization attempting to abolish advertising for children in the United States. As a response to this pushback, Niantic decided to remove all sponsored locations from any accounts registered to a player under the age of 13.
While that was probably a bit of an annoyance to younger players, it didn't become a problem until Niantic started holding the majority of the EX Raids at sponsored locations. Since kids can't see the Sponsored gyms, they can't do raids there, which means they aren't eligible for EX Raids at those locations.
The easiest solution to preventing kids from getting alienated is to stop holding EX Raids at sponsored locations. We know that Pokemon Go isn't entirely opposed to having EX Raids at "normal" gyms, but it seems that they're currently limiting them mainly to locations that they know won't mind the influx of traffic. This could be just during the testing phase of EX Raids, or it could be a more permanent plan to help justify the money Sprint, Starbucks, and other sponsors are putting into the game. After all, making it so that you can only get the game's most powerful Pokemon at a sponsored location is a great way to ensure players visit advertisers.
Still, alienating Pokemon Go's youngest group of players isn't great and is a good way to turn parents and other family members who play with those kids away from the game. Pokemon Go needs to come up with a solution to this problem soon before EX Raids get finalized or they could lose a sizable chunk of its players.