Pokémon GO shall probably be remembered as the April Fool’s Day prank that became the most infamous mobile game for years. From a novel concept to one of the most hated games out there, with players demanding refunds en masse from Android Play and Apple’s iOS App Stores, the drama all centers around two differing ideologies at present.
Here you probably thought, it’s a topic about the in-game ideologies of Teams Mystic, Valor, and Instinct. As of today, there’s actually a different path I wanted to explore. These issues all start and end with Niantic Labs. Niantic developed this game based off of their successes with Ingress, another mobile title that had players battle it out in the real world for control points. Going in from Ingress, players knew that Niantic was on the silent side. Unfortunately, it’s 2016, and blank silence is considered unacceptable, especially after a game has reached the scale of cultural phenomenon.
With the ongoing issue of a lack of tracking, followed by the shutdown of tracking sites such as PokeVision, players were clearly not happy. The tracking issue started a few days into the launch, where any Pokémon found would show up as being the furthest away, with three steps on the radar. With no fix in sight, Niantic made the choice of removing the feature in its entirety, setting off the majority of the Pokémon GO communities and inciting witch hunts and refunds through the respective App Stores. People got fairly fed up with Niantic’s lack of contact, and as of today, August 2, Niantic finally spoke up in a Facebook statement.
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”
Niantic has publicly made it clear, in the voice of CEO John Hanke, that they were not fond of the tracking websites and claimed that they were causing due strain on the servers, hence the shutdown of popular trackers.
What intrigues me about these statements is that the developer of the most renowned tracker PokeVision spoke up today in a heartfelt statement via Medium, and threw some very heavy numbers at Niantic about why they should reconsider. Here are some of the highlights:
“After 3 weeks though, we started seeing that you guys seemed to not want to talk to us (the players). Pokevision, at this time has grown to almost 50M unique users, and 11 million daily.
Let that sink in for a second.
Half of the player base of Pokemon Go stopped by — and they didn’t do so to “cheat.” The game was simply too unbearable to play in its current state for many (note: many, not all). The main attraction wasn’t that they got to have an advantage with Pokevision, the main attraction was that it allowed them to play Pokemon Go more. This is what everyone wants — to play Pokemon Go more.”
So yes, let’s let all of this sink in for just a moment. Fifty million unique users and over eleven million, on a daily basis. The game has been downloaded 100 million times. As a webmaster, those numbers are staggering. They’re numbers people would dream for. If half, or at that time, over half of the user base was using the app, is it considered cheating at all, or an extension of the way that the game is meant to be played?
Let’s look a bit more at the ideology that Yang Liu, PokeVision’s developer is approaching from, which appears to be a plea focusing heavily on numbers and visuals. The App Store rating for Pokémon GO has tumbled heavily since its launch. An initial rating of four stars now sits at 1.5 stars out of five on the App Store. People are upset, people are noticing, and people are talking. Here’s a bit more from Liu:
“After disabling the in-game tracker and Pokevision, the ratings on iOs and Android Google Play store went from 4.0 stars to 1.0–1.5. I am only one person, I admit that my sole opinion is not important, but what about the countless players begging for the game to be restored to its former state? I may be biased in saying that Pokevision being down had an impact on the amount of negative ratings, refund requests and outcry on social media — but could it be true? Nothing has changed between the time the in-game tracker broke and Pokevision went down. Could it just be possible that the tracker — no matter if Pokevision made it, or Niantic made it, is something that players desperately NEED — not want, but NEED — in order to play the game? Could it be possible that this is the very core fundamental feature that drives most players?”
As Liu later points out, it goes into that old and awful retail adage that the customer is always right. As a retail worker, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree on that statement, but here, the situation applies that the customer, or in this case, the one hundred million customers, are correct, and rightfully so.
“You won’t be remembered for the profits you made, you’ll be remembered for the world you changed through Pokemon and all of the lives you made better. Just look at all the stories — there’s plenty. So when millions of players are expressing their feedback to changes, is it not worth it to listen to what they have to say?”
Let’s put the horror and crime stories on hold for a second, and really look at what the game has done for others. For those who suffer from obesity, GO is an outlet for them to interact with the world and fight back. For those who suffer in hospitals from illness, GO is a way to put a smile on their face in the form of people using lures to bring creatures to them. It’s brought in bigger traffic to businesses and media outlets. For every one of those horror stories we read about, there’s plenty more positive stories of people being brought together, and Niantic has the ability to further do so.
On the other side of the scale, looking at Niantic, it’s understandable that they’ve got a monster on their hands that they never anticipated would have grown to this scale. It’s also the Pokémon series, and it’s on mobile where tons and tons of people have access to on an immediate basis. The download numbers say it all. As great of a huge step that statement was, what were those underlying goals with regard to tracking? The transparency is appreciated, but it’s not good enough to tide over the scale of a global phenomenon.
Niantic, your ideology and reasoning are respected, but it’s not enough for me and for everyone else out there. Please, step up the game, and help change the world. You guys are really close, and we would all hate to see it stop here.