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Pokemon Go teases new Team Rocket villains

Pokemon Go has introduced three new members of Team Rocket, hinting at the imminent arrival of a big battle or event.

The characters first appeared on a fresh loading screen that went live last night. The scene depicts the trainers on the steps of the Viridian City gym surrounded by Shadow Pokemon, including some new additions to the corrupted roster like Absol, Mawile, Tyranitar, and Scizor. A figure that appears to be Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket, looms over the proceedings.

Though previously unidentified, Niantic shared the names of the new Team Rocket members via a series of tweets on the official Pokemon Go Twitter account. Known as Cliff, Arlo, and Sierra, the trainers appear to serve as Team Rocket admins, implying that they will be harder to defeat than the run-of-the-mill grunts. The grunts first appeared in July, taking over PokeStops. Players must defeat the grunts to reclaim the stop and have a chance catch Shadow Pokemon used by the grunts during the battle. The player can then purify the corrupted Pokemon to give it a permanent stat boost.

It seemed odd that the grunts were acting without any sort of leadership structure. Cliff, Arlo, and Sierra will likely step into fill that role, offering players a more difficult challenge after they've cleared out a wave of underlings. Based on the loading screen, Giovanni may also make his in-game debut. The Team Rocket head has yet to appear in gameplay. As the tweets suggest, Niantic will likely reveal more information soon as Professor Willow continues to investigate the corrupted file that appeared on his computer.

The addition of Team Rocket to Pokemon Go was accompanied by a clever marketing campaign which showed the antagonists photobombing pictures taken via the app and "defacing" ads for the game. Niantic even unveiled a Team Rocket hot air balloon. With the amount of time and care already put into the storyline, it's safe to assume that the months of teasers are building to something impressive.