Pokemon GO EX Raid Battle testing would begin in September, was the latest word from Niantic on the new Raid Battle feature. The new system, which was first unveiled as Exclusive Raids, offers invite-only battles to active players and requires a special pass in order to take part.

Pokemon GO EX Raid field tests are now taking place across the globe, it seems, but only in select locations. In the United States testing is taking place in the following cities: Portland, OR., Chicago, IL., San Diego, CA., Los Angeles, CA., Oxnard, CA., Orange County, CA., Burbank, CA., Arlington, TX., Philadelphia, PA., and Tulsa, OK.

Invites are already being sent out ahead of the first raid on September 15 between 6-7PM. All of the US EX Raids are said to be taking place at Sprint stores, which is unsurprising as Pokemon GO and Sprint have an existing partnership.

In Japan, EX Raid battle tests are planned in over 40 locations across the country and Taiwan will also be hosting battle tests too. The Japanese and Taiwanese tests will take place on September 16 between 10-11AM, meaning that there should be a massive drop of information about the feature over the weekend as lucky raid participants share their experiences.

Interestingly, it seems that like the raid battle tests in the United States, all of the Japanese test locations seem to be sponsored too. As EX Raid battles are exclusive and therefore are far less common than the average raid, brands could bring in the big bucks by hosting sponsored raids at their stores. Just like with Gyms and PokeStops, players will rush to a location to take part in the activity and may spend some of their money at the store while they’re there.

Niantic has already made bank from its partnerships, including a Starbucks Pokemon GO promotion and the sponsored McDonalds restaurants in Japan, so it makes good business sense for the companies to continue that. Pokemon GO has already made over a billion dollars and the new gameplay feature would allow Niantic to earn even more. If the battles prove to be popular, then even more brands will be trying to get EX Raids in their stores as well.

Positively though, Taiwanese tests are not in sponsored locations, suggesting that sponsorship isn’t mandatory at least. This should provide some comfort for rural players who fear that they will miss out because partnered brands do not have a presence in their towns. Niantic has some time to address and tweak availability before the feature is fully released too, further reassuring players worried about missing out.

Pokemon GO is out now on Android and iOS.

Source: Pokemon GO Hub