Team GO Rocket is a criminal organization and the main antagonists in Pokémon GO, aiming to take over all PokéStops around the world. Based on the original Team Rocket, Team GO Rocket is comprised of various Grunts (including Jessie and James), three Leaders, and Giovanni.
Trainers who are Level 8 or above can approach PokéStops taken over by Team GO Rocket, or interact with a Team GO Rocket balloon, and challenge the team member to a Pokémon battle. If the Trainer succeeds, they will earn items and a chance to catch a Shadow Pokémon.
Since July 25th, 2019, Team GO Rocket members occasionally take over PokéStops. PokéStops taken over by Grunts appear differently in the Map View from standard PokéStops; when out of range, they appear darker than normal and the cube on top shakes around violently. If the Trainer approaches the PokéStop, it becomes black, the Team GO Rocket logo appears over it, and the Grunt appears next to the PokéStop. Once a PokéStop is taken over, it remains that way for 30 minutes for all nearby Trainers, but defeating the Grunt is instanced to each Trainer.
If the Trainer spins the PokéStop's Photo Disc, they'll still receive items and Field Research if applicable, but the Team GO Rocket Grunt will appear in the Photo Disc view to challenge the Trainer to a Pokémon battle. The Trainer can also tap on the Grunt directly, skipping the items and Field Research.
If a Team GO Rocket Leader or Giovanni takes over a PokéStop, it will still appear as a normal PokéStop in the Map View. It will also not behave differently from a normal PokéStop when interacted with, unless the Trainer has a Rocket Radar equipped, in which case the PokéStop will become black with the Team GO Rocket logo and the Leader or Giovanni will appear next to it.
Capturing a Shadow Pokémon at a PokéStop resets the PokéStop. Even if five minutes have not passed, the Photo Disc will be available to spin again.
Since July 7th, 2020, Team GO Rocket members occasionally appear in hot air balloons. These balloons spawn above the Trainer in the Map View and are specific to each Trainer; other Trainers cannot see or interact with another Trainer's balloon. The Trainer can tap on the balloon to encounter the Team GO Rocket member riding in it, which will depend on the situation:
- If the Trainer had a Super Rocket Radar equipped, Giovanni will be riding in the balloon.
- If the Trainer had a standard Rocket Radar equipped and did not have a Super Rocket Radar equipped at the same time, a random Team GO Rocket Leader will be riding in the balloon.
- If the Trainer did not have any Rocket Radar equipped, a Team GO Rocket Grunt will be riding in the balloon.
- There is a rare chance that the balloon will be a special Meowth balloon carrying Jessie and James and it can show up regardless of equipped Rocket Radar.
Outside of special events, one balloon spawns in a six-hour time period (00:00 to 5:59, 06:00 to 11:59, 12:00 to 17:59, and 18:00 to 23:59), always spawning immediately when the game is opened if it hasn't in the same period, thus each Trainer can encounter four balloons per day. The balloon will follow the Trainer if they move, but they only stick around for a limited time and will eventually fly away.
Unlike PokéStop encounters, equipping or unequipping a Radar after the balloon appears does not change who is in it. In addition, Team GO Rocket balloons with Leaders (including Giovanni) will leave if the Trainer exits the Shadow Pokémon encounter, consuming the Radar while making it impossible to catch the Shadow Pokémon.
- For information on battling specific members, see Team GO Rocket Grunts, Jessie and James, Team GO Rocket Leaders, or Giovanni.
Once a Trainer encounters a Team GO Rocket member, they can initiate a Pokémon battle with them. These battles play similarly to Trainer Battles with some significant differences:
- Team GO Rocket's Pokémon are all Shadow Pokémon.
- The Trainer's Pokémon are not automatically healed after the battle. They must be healed using Potions or Revives if necessary.
- The Trainer Battle Leagues are not in effect, so Trainers are allowed to use any of their Pokémon to fight the Team GO Rocket member's Pokémon.
- Grunts, including Jessie and James, will never use Protect Shields to defend against a Trainer's Pokémon's charged attack. However, Leaders and Giovanni will use Protect Shields. They will always shield (if they have any left), regardless of the situation.
Trainers were initially unable to use items while choosing Pokémon before a Team GO Rocket battle. This is no longer the case; items can now be used before beginning the battle, similar to Gym or Raid battles.
Initiating a Pokémon battle with a Leader or Giovanni requires a Rocket Radar or Super Rocket Radar, respectively, to be equipped. Winning the battle will consume the item, but losing will not, so the Trainer can continue to challenge Leaders or Giovanni until they win.
Winning a Team GO Rocket battle rewards the Trainer with Stardust, specific items, and an opportunity to catch one of the Shadow Pokémon they faced. Defeating Grunts, Jessie, James, and Leaders will reward progress on the Hero medal; defeating Giovanni will reward progress on the Ultra Hero medal.
As of the beginning of December, the delay when the player is switching out/choosing a Pokemon or performing a Charged Attack (and vice versa) in a battle has been removed. Niantic has acknowledged the bug and it will be fixed in a future update. But this fix caused another problem where the Grunts'/Leaders'/Giovanni's Pokemons are defeated but performs another attack before fainting. This can be game-changing as both the player and the Grunts'/Leaders'/Giovanni's have only one Pokemon left and the player wins with very little HP on their Pokemon but their Pokemon performs a last attack and defeats the Player's Pokemon, resulting in a defeat for the Player.
Rescuing Shadow Pokémon
- Main article: Shadow Pokémon
After winning a battle against a Team GO Rocket member, the Trainer will have an opportunity to catch one of the Shadow Pokémon that appeared in the battle. This gameplay functions similarly to the Bonus Challenge in Raid Batles; the Trainer will receive a certain number of Premier Balls to catch the Shadow Pokémon, depending on how many of the Trainer's Pokémon survived the battle and the ranks of the Trainer's Hero and Purifier medals.
The Shadow Pokémon available to catch is usually, but not always, the first one battled. If the Trainer won against Giovanni, the Shadow Pokémon available to catch is the Shadow Legendary Pokémon that Giovanni used, which will always have a 100% capture rate. Shadow Pokémon available to catch from Jessie, James, and Leaders can be shiny.
Shadow Pokémon move and attack far more often than normal, making them especially difficult to catch. Using a Nanab Berry will help lower their rate of movement. Unlike other Pokemon encounters, the color of the target ring is unreliable in determining the capture rate; the rate is always higher than the ring color implies.
If the Trainer does not have any free space in their Pokémon collection, the Shadow Pokémon encounter will not appear. If the Team GO Rocket member was encountered at a PokéStop, they will not disappear; the Trainer can clear out space in their collection and tap on the Team GO Rocket member to go straight into the encounter. If the Team GO Rocket member was encountered in a balloon, the balloon will fly away and the encounter will be lost.
Since July 25th, 2019, Trainers who reach Level 8 are automatically granted the A Troubling Situation set of Special Research tasks. This Special Research acts as an introduction to Team GO Rocket and Shadow Pokémon.
Starting from November 2019, several sets of Special Research were made available to battle the Team GO Rocket Leaders and Giovanni. Originally, they were made available to Trainers once per calendar month. These Special Research sets were as follows:
- Looming in the Shadows - November 2019
- A Challenging Development - December 2019
- The Take-Over Continues - January 2020
- A Professor’s Work is Never Done - February 2020
- The Shadowy Threat Grows - March and April 2020 (only available once)
- An Inter-egg-sting Development - October 2020 - February 2021
- The Higher They Fly... - March 2021 - May 2021
- A Seven-Colored Shadow - June 17th - August 2021
- Silent Schemes - Spring 2022
Moreover, these Timed and Special Research campaigns revolved around Team GO Rocket as well:
- GO Fest Weekly Challenge: Battle Timed Research - Team GO Rocket Event from July 10th to 15th, 2020, in preparation for Pokémon GO Fest 2020
- GO Fest 2020: Rocket Straight to Victory Day Two exclusive Special Research for ticket holders - Pokémon GO Fest 2020
- Team GO Rocket Celebration Timed Research - Team GO Rocket Celebration from February 2nd to 7th, 2021
- Tricky Pokémon Timed Research - Tricky Pokémon 2021 from April 1st to 8th, 2021, rewarding a Super Rocket Radar
- Luminous Legends X Timed Research - Luminous Legends X from May 4th to 17th, 2021, rewarding a Super Rocket Radar
- Luminous Legends Y Timed Research - Luminous Legends Y from May 18th to 31st, 2021
- Part 15 of Misunderstood Mischief Special Research - released along with A Looming Shadow Returns!, rewarding a Super Rocket Radar
List of Team GO Rocket events
Events about Team GO Rocket usually include the following features: increased amount of Grunts in PokéStops and balloons, changes of their battle parties with new released Shadow Pokémon, related Research tasks and Frustration can be changed by Charged TM.
- Team GO Rocket Disruption - July 25th to August 1st, 2019
- Team GO Rocket Leaders Disruption - November 7th to November 14th, 2019
- Rocket Take-Over - On November 24th, 2019, all PokéStops (except the ones taken by Leaders) were taken over by Team GO Rocket Grunts from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time.
- Team GO Rocket Global Take-over - March 6th to 9th, 2020
- This event included a global take-over mini-event on March 7th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. local time.
- Team GO Rocket Event - July 10th to 15th, 2020
- This event included a battle-themed event on July 11th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time.
- Team GO Rocket Celebration - February 2nd to 7th, 2021
- A Looming Shadow Returns! - November 9th to 13th, 2021
- Team GO Rocket Strikes - January 24th to 30th, 2022
- All-Hands Rocket Retreat - April 3rd to 7th, 2022
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
- Team GO Rocket was introduced to Pokémon GO on July 22nd, 2019, but was removed the next day due to an exploit related to Shadow Pokémon. Team GO Rocket was re-introduced on July 25th, 2019.
- 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.
- Team GO Rocket Leaders & Giovanni. Helpshift – Niantic. Retrieved on 2020-07-13.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- ekupcm. guess is that purification was fudged and was too easy to obtain a 100% IV through it. Twitter. Retrieved on 2020-07-14.
- iamjohndorn. People were exploiting the Purify mechanic in combination with Lucky Trades to guarantee Perfects. It'll be back, I'm guessing they're just rebalancing Purify.. Twitter. Retrieved on 2020-07-14.