Members of Team GO Rocket, mostly grunts, happen to appear thanks to following game features.
According to game's published media, Team Leaders and Professor Willow have observed Team GO Rocket members hanging out at discoloured PokéStops and it appears as they are after the PokéStops' resources.
Team GO Rocket grunts happen to takeover PokéStops. Such PokéStops have different appearance in the Map View:
- when taken over PokéStop is out of range, their have darker colour scheme and the cube on the top tends to shake and twitch,
- when such PokéStop is approached by a trainer, it turns it becomes black, the Team GO Rocket logo will appear over it and grunt appears next to the PokéStop.
After spinning such PokéStop's Photo Disc items are still given and grunt will appear in the Photo Disc view to challenge trainer to battle them. Player can leave the PokéStop or engage battle with such grunt.
The PokéStop will be invaded for 30 minutes at a time. After defeating the Grunt, the PokéStop returns to normal. All trainers see the same taken over PokéStops, but turning them normal is instanced for each player.
- For more information on Team GO Rocket Grunts and finding them, see here: Team GO Rocket Grunts#Encountering grunts
After tracking down and approaching PokéStop being a hideout of either leaders or Giovanni, this PokéStop will act like approached PokéStop that was taken over by grunt — it also turns out black and team logo appears over it but with a leader or Giovanni standing next to it. However, only when appropriate Rocket Radar is equipped, the leader or Giovanni will show up next to approached PokéStop.
- For more information on Team GO Rocket Leaders and finding them, see here: Team GO Rocket Leaders#Finding leaders
- For more information on Giovanni and finding him, see here: Giovanni#Finding Giovanni
Team GO Rocket Balloon encounters are the second common option to encounter Grunts, Leaders and Giovanni other than approaching them at taken over PokéStops. Such balloons can be seen in the Map View and they spawn above the Trainer's avatar one at the time. They will follow the Trainer.
In order to interact with the balloon and engage battle against Team GO Rocket member, player has to tap on the seen balloon in the Map View.
Similarly to taken over PokéStops mechanic, Leaders and Giovanni can be encounter in a Team GO Rocket Balloon if player has a respective radar equipped.
The feature was introduced on July 7th, 2020. 
GO Snapshot Photobombs
Grunts were spotted in photobombs, while using GO Snapshot, during the Team GO Rocket Disruption event and the evening after attending Pokémon GO Fest 2019 events. Giovanni appeared as a photobomb at Yokohama Pokémon GO Fest 2019.
There were several Special Research campaigns revolving around Team GO Rocket and features related to them. These are, these Special Research sets:
- A Troubling Situation - Introduction to Team GO Rocket and Shadow Pokémon
- Looming in the Shadows - Team GO Rocket Leaders Research in November 2019
- A Challenging Development - Team GO Rocket Leaders Research in December 2019
- The Take-Over Continues - Team GO Rocket Leaders Research in January 2020
- A Professor’s Work is Never Done - Team GO Rocket Leaders Research in February 2020
- The Shadowy Threat Grows - Team GO Rocket Leaders Research in March and April 2020
Battling Team GO Rocket members
Trainer can engage battle with any of Team GO Rocket members, after interacting with them or the PokéStop next to them — encountering grunt at taken over PokéStop or locating hideout of either leader or Giovanni.
Battling any Team GO Rocket members uses the same game mechanic as Trainer Battles with two significant differences:
- Trainer's Pokémon after fought battle are not restored to full health automatically, therefore Trainer has to use Potions or Revives, like after battles in gyms and Raid Battles.
- There is no specific battle league in these battles so Trainer does not have to choose one.
To engage battles with either Leaders or Giovanni, Trainer need appropriate Rocket Radar equipped.
Winning battles with any of Team GO Rocket members rewards Trainer with Stardust, specific items and gives them opportunity to catch a Shadow Pokémon in bonus Rescuing Shadow Pokémon Mission. Defeating Grunts and Leaders counts towards Hero medal while, defeating Giovanni counts towards Ultra Hero medal.
- For more information on battling specific members of Team GO Rocket, see: Team GO Rocket Grunts, Team GO Rocket Leaders and Giovanni.
Rescuing Shadow Pokémon
Trainer can access Rescue Shadow Pokémon feature, after they successfully defeated any member of Team GO Rocket (including grunts, leaders and Giovanni) similarly to the Bonus Challenge in Raid Battles.
The Shadow Pokémon available for capture is usually the first one battled – in case of Grunts and Leaders, but there is also chance of catching the second one – only in case of Grunts and in case of defeating Giovanni – these is a chance of catching Shadow Legendary Pokémon which has 100% capture rate and can be different each month.
When attempting to capture Shadow Pokémon, they attack far more often than normal, making themselves especially hard to catch. A Nanab Berry help with this. Also, while Shadow Pokémon often have a deep orange or even red ring (even for common, low-level Pokémon), it seems to be misleading, as the capture rate is not as low as the capture circle implies.
Similar to Raid Battles, Premier Balls , will be used to capture left behind Shadow Pokémon. At least three Premier Balls are given after a victory, and the number of extra Premier Balls received (beyond the base number of two) is based on how many Trainer's Pokémon survived the battle and the ranks of the Hero and the Purifier medals.
Shadow Pokémon that are being captured after battle with Leaders can be shiny.
- Main article: Shadow Pokémon
Shadow Pokémon are kind of Pokémon that can be acquired after a successful battle against any of Team GO Rocket members. According to the Professor Willow in game's published media, Shadow Pokémon are modified, strengthened Pokémon that suffer and Trainer should rescue and purify them in order to revert them to their regular state.
Shadow Pokémon cannot be traded away by the Trainer who rescued them unless they are purified first. Purified Pokémon can also become stronger and require less resources to power up.
List of Team GO Rocket events
- Team GO Rocket Disruption: July 25th to August 1st, 2019
- On July 28th, 2019, every single PokéStop was taken over by Team GO Rocket during 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. local time.
- Team GO Rocket Leaders Disruption: November 7th to November 14th, 2019
- On November 24th, 2019, every single PokéStop (except the ones taken by leaders) was taken over by Team GO Rocket during 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time.
|Defeat a Team GO Rocket Grunt|| Ekans |
1× Max Potion
1× Max Revive
|Defeat 3 Team GO Rocket Grunts|| Skorupi|
|Defeat a Team GO Rocket Leader||3× Rare Candy|
- Team GO Rocket Global Take-over: March 6th to 9th, 2020
- This event included global take-over mini-event on March 7th from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. local time.
- Team GO Rocket Event: July 10th to 15th, 2020
Social media takeover
Game publishers arranged social-media takeover by Team GO Rocket that took place at 9:00 PM EDT on July 26, 2019, at the official Pokémon GO Twitter page and other social media.  Eventually, after a various messages, Team GO Rocket announced that they will be taking over all PokéStops on July 28, 2019 for one hour beginning at 4:00 PM local time. "Control" of the social media accounts were restored after 48 hours at 9:30 PM EDT on July 28, 2019.
For three years, we have been watching. The world of Pokémon GO is rife with unlimited resources. This privilege is wasted on Trainers like you who lack the vision to exploit this vast world of resources and Pokémon.
You walk around and spin your PokéStops like this some kind of game. You battle in your Gyms and rejoice when they change colors. You care for Pokémon as though they're something more than tools! What a waste of potential!
We've brought our Shadow Pokémon, strengthened to unimaginable levels that you could never reach through powering up alone. We're here to take over your PokéStops and steal from their unlimited supply of resources. Can't you see the beauty of our evil?
This is just the beginning. Your resources are our resources. Your Pokémon are our Pokémon. Your world is our world! You can't stop us. Professor Willow, Spark, Blanche, Candela, and most of all, you—stay out of our way!
We follow the villainous path of those before us—and we will succeed in finally bringing Giovanni's vision to the world!
If you insist on trying to disrupt our plans, we will make you feel a world of pain!
—Team GO Rocket
Team GO Rocket promotional images
Leaders promotional images
Rocket Balloons promotional images
- The possible reward Pokémon for the "Defeat a Team GO Rocket Grunt" Research Task (Ekans, Koffing, and Meowth) reference the Pokémon originally used by Team Rocket members Jessie and James in the Pokémon anime.
- The game element was introduced in July 22nd, 2019. However, it was suspended one day later due to adjustment of Shadow Pokémon.
- Team GO Rocket was released again on July 25th, 2019.
- Event Team GO Rocket Disruption was held to promote the introduction of Team GO Rocket.
- If you do not have any space in your Pokémon storage, after defeating Team GO Rocket you would exit without encountering the Shadow Pokémon; however, the Grunt does not disappear, and after clearing out space you can simply tap the Grunt to go straight into the encounter without needing to defeat the Grunt again.
- Capturing a Shadow Pokémon at a Pokéstop resets it; you can spin the photo disc to get items, capture the Shadow Pokémon and get items again even though 5 minutes have not passed.
- The original Flying-type hint was "My bird Pokémon wants to battle with you!". It was changed due to some Flying-type Pokémon do not look like birds such as Zubat, Gyarados or Dragonite.
- Previously, you are unable to use items while choosing your team without exiting the encounter entirely.
- Before the introduction of Team GO Rocket Leaders, the hints of Electric- and Ghost-type could not be displayed. Normal dialog was used before the battle.
- ↑ Team GO Rocket & Shadow Pokémon. Helpshift – Niantic. Retrieved on 2019-07-24.
- ↑ Team GO Rocket invades Pokémon GO!. Pokémon GO Live. Retrieved on 2019-07-27.
- ↑ Look up, Trainers—Team GO Rocket balloons have arrived in Pokémon GO! Pokémon GO Live. Retrieved on 2020-07-08.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. From 4 to 5 p.m. in your local time, we’ll be taking over ALL the PokéStops in your area.. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-07-28.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. Attention! #TeamGORocket has started their take-over! Be prepared, as they will be at EVERY PokéStop in your region on November 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time!. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-11-24.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. (2019, July 26). R. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-07-28.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. (2019, July 28). From 4 to 5 p.m. in your local time, we’ll be taking over ALL the PokéStops in your area. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-07-28.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. (2019, July 28). We apologize for the bizarre disruption on our social media channels today. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-07-29.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 PokemonGoApp. (2019, September 30). Professor Willow has started to recover files from the corrupted folder, and he's uncovered these images.. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-10-29.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 PokemonGoApp. (2019, October 2). Professor Willow recovered these photos from the corrupted folder hidden on his computer.. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-10-29.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. (2019, October 30). Incoming Willow Report: A Valor recruit no more. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-10-30.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. (2019, October 26). Incoming Willow Report: The first of many cliffhangers. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-10-29.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. (2019, October 28). Incoming Willow Report: A shadowy sierra. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-10-29.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. Trainers, we have an incoming message from Professor Willow: “I’ve noticed an alarming number of reports from Trainers who have found PokéStops that look...discolored?”. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-07-24.
- ↑ PokemonGoApp. Professor Willow has noticed that sightings of discolored PokéStops and Pokémon enshrouded in a shadowy aura have...suddenly stopped?. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-07-24.
- ↑ They changed the Rocket Grunt battle hint text for flying types, Zubat and Dragonite are no longer considered to be "birds". /r/TheSilphRoad. Retrieved on 2019-09-01.