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Pokémon GO - Niantic - Sshh

While millions of people are (were?) enjoying the hell out of Pokémon GO, the game isn’t without its faults. In an attempt to begin to rectify some of the app’s many problems, Niantic issued an update to the game over the weekend. It did not go well.

If You Decide To Break Your Silence, Niantic, Actually Say Something

The update didn’t appear to do much. There were likely tweaks on the back-end to make things run more smoothly, general aesthetics were updated too, oh – and Niantic completely shut off the Pokémon tracking feature. No big deal! No big deal? Tell that to the internet.

Fans came out in droves to renounce the recent move. The game’s “three-step” Pokémon tracking feature had been broken for quite a while now. As of late, it only shows three steps regardless of how near a Pokémon actually is. However, instead of taking the time to fix the feature and correct it in the recent update, Niantic instead shut the feature completely down. Instead of seeing three steps, you now see none. And the fans are none too pleased.

Pokémon GO - New Tracking Page
This is what it looks like trying to “track” Pokémon now.

There really isn’t a difference in showing three steps constantly or none, but it’s the subliminal message it sends. Fans were hoping for a correction. Instead they got abandonment. Users began requesting refunds of purchases via the Google Play and App Store – and to the retailer’s credit they’ve been awarded for the most part. It’s hard to try to hold onto someone’s money when they are purchasing items in a nearly completely broken app. To be fair, I’m sure Niantic is actively working to correct one of Pokémon GO‘s most important features. But when you just eliminate it, without a real explanation, it’s no wonder your core fans are going to go ape shit.

Really, it comes down to the core problem of this entire situation – an almost complete lack of transparency from Pokémon GO developer, Niantic. The internet can be quite the fickle place, but should you task a Community Manager (which Niantic is actively in the process of hiring) with hitting Twitter and Reddit regularly with updates and statuses, you’re certain to receive a fair amount of slack and good faith. It’s just difficult as a fan base to be handed this essentially defunct game and be told next to nothing about where and what future updates are to entail. Finally though, after the crazy backlash of the past few days, Niantic has indeed issued the following statement:

“Trainers,

As many of you know, we recently made some changes to Pokémon GO.

– We have removed the ‘3-step’ display in order to improve upon the underlying design. The original feature, although enjoyed by many, was also confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals. We will keep you posted as we strive to improve this feature.

– We have limited access by third-party services which were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users and to bring Pokémon GO to users around the world. The large number of users has made the roll-out of Pokémon GO around the world an… interesting… challenge. And we aren’t done yet! Yes, Brazil, we want to bring the game to you (and many other countries where it is not yet available).

We have read your posts and emails and we hear the frustration from folks in places where we haven’t launched yet, and from those of you who miss these features. We want you to know that we have been working crazy hours to keep the game running as we continue to launch globally. If you haven’t heard us Tweeting much it’s because we’ve been heads down working on the game. But we’ll do our best going forward to keep you posted on what’s going on.

Be safe, be nice to your fellow trainers, and keep on exploring.”

The Pokémon GO team”

Wait, what? After nearly a month of what seems like contemptuous silence, all we get is “we have been working crazy hours” and “we’ve been heads down working on the game”. WTF? We know you “removed the 3-step display”. Maybe you could let us know when you hope to have it reimplemented. It is a crucial aspect of the game, after all. But thank you for acknowledging that “it did not meet our underlying product goals.” Tell us, Niantic, what parts of the app thus far have met your underlying product goals?

Pokémon GO - Trainer Customization
The update wasn’t all bad! You can now modify your Trainer’s clothing!

Also mentioned in the statement was the disabling of third-party services. Websites like Pokevision.com were a Godsend when the tracking feature went kaput. You could simply pull up the site, enter your location, and a GPS map of all the local Pokémon in real-time would appear. Some, like Niantic head John Hinkle, called it cheating. Others considered it the only legitimate way at this point to actually hunt down Pokémon that weren’t random encounters. Then, this happened over the weekend:

That’s right, the only viable Pokémon tracking means were being shut down by Niantic and Nintendo. What fan service. But wait! There’s good news! The game is coming to Brazil and other regions! Eventually… Niantic didn’t bother giving a release date. What a mess.

Perhaps the most infuriating of all, is the final paragraph of the statement. “We have read your posts and emails and we hear the frustration from folks in places where we haven’t launched yet, and from those of you who miss these features.” They hear us, but again, Niantic has “been working crazy hours to keep the game running as we continue to launch globally.” Sorry, but in 2016, that statement is unacceptable. Someone on the Niantic team should have been tasked with taking the Community reins when the app started shitting the bed just after its release. Give us something, anything.

The Pokémon GO Twitter account has 1.5 Million followers. There are about 760,000 “Real Life Trainers” subscribed to the Pokémon GO Reddit page. Many of these people have been excited about the game and have hyped it up since before launch. Those Trainers stuck with it through the bumpy beginning that explained almost nothing about how to actually play the game. The pushed through the horrendous servers and the initial three-step glitch. They were determined to “Catch ‘Em All”. But when you decide that they don’t deserve your transparency, they have every right to be as frustrated as they are and begin to abandon ship.

As I mentioned previously, Niantic is actively seeking someone to take over Community relations. Why this wasn’t handled months ago is beyond me. Because while people were frustrated with Niantic’s silence, if all they’re going to do is put out generic, empty statement like the one above, they were much better off remaining silent.

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Growing up a 90's kid, Jeff found his love for gaming during Nintendo's heyday. Because of that, you could call him a "Nintendo Fanboy" (albeit a rational one) to this day. Outside of his passion for the gaming industry, he’s also an avid sports enthusiast (New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies mainly) and enjoys quality/popular TV shows and movies.