It’s no secret how popular Niantic’s latest AR mobile game Pokémon Go has been. In all likelihood, you’ve played it, or at least heard of it. Not only has the game been causing headlines due to unfortunate incidents and spawn locations, but for nearly causing a social revolution. For the first time in years, gamers have been heading out into the world instead of sitting at home. With a little effort, Pokémon Go very well could have been responsible lowering the obesity rate worldwide.
With recent changes to the game, it’s looking less like this game will be a revolution as much as a cautionary tale. In recent updates, Niantic have seemingly been ignoring fans entirely. Since launch, the game has been plagued by issues. The servers dropped out regularly, people frequently had to restart the app. Understandably fans have been quite vocal about their dismay. They have been taking to social media to complain and suggest changes.
Two Steps Forward, Three Footprints Back
Sadly, it seems their suggestions were ignored. Updates to the game so far haven’t fixed any major issues. The previous update even went so far as to remove a feature entirely. The ‘three footprints’ system for tracking pokémon had been broken since launch. But instead of fixing this feature, Niantic removed it with no explanation.
Furthermore, Niantic also issued cease and desist notices to several third-party developers working to fix the above issues. Websites such as Pokévision, which displayed real time locations of pokémon in your location, have ceased operations at Niantic’s request. These services had proven incredibly popular given the broken in-game tracking system. However, Niantic CEO John Hanke has been quoted as saying he disliked such services, claiming they took fun out of the game.
Hey guys. We wish we had some news for you
At this moment, we are respecting Niantic and Nintendo’s wishes.
Will keep you guys posted
— Pokevision (@PokeVisionGo) July 31, 2016
Throughout all this process, Niantic were suspiciously silent. Not a single word had been uttered by the company regarding changes or future plans. Fans became increasingly frustrated at the lack of communication, feeling like their opinions were being ignored. Many even took action, giving the game negative reviews on Google Play and the App Store, or requesting refunds of in-game purchases. Google Play even had to make a change to their support pages, redirecting all complaints about Pokémon Go to Niantic.
Now, to their credit, Niantic have made a statement about their recent changes in the facebook post below. However, let’s take a closer look:
Firstly, they claim they removed the ‘3-step’ feature to improve upon it’s design. But they don’t reveal what their plans are to improve it. Are we getting a fully revamped system? Is it a code cleanup? Are we getting a ‘4-step’ feature? I understand such ideas might be in early development, but given the feature is pretty much in the core of gameplay, I’d expect some information.
Secondly, they talk about third party apps. Supposedly these affected server quality for players. However, the game has seemingly been stabilising despite the rise of multiple third-party apps. There’s no indication as to what exactly these third-party apps broke. They even attempt to deflect the issue by reassuring Brazillian players that they will have a launch soon.
Lastly, they apologise for lack of communcation, blaming it on the “crazy hours” the developers are working to ensure the game keeps running. But isn’t that why you hire PR people? It’s not the job of a code monkey to do your tweeting, it’s the job of your community manager, which apparently Niantic haven’t hired yet.
@Sam_214 we are currently hiring a Community Manager for Pokémon GO. My involvement is @ingress focused.
— Andrew Krug (@KrugDrew) August 1, 2016
All in all, Niantic’s attempt at transparency is about as opaque as you can get! And the scary thing is, this isn’t the first time all of this has happened. Niantic experienced almost the exact same set of events with their previous game, Ingress in 2012. As detailed in this article, Ingress also encountered server issues, third party improvements being shut down, and a lack of communication from developers. So is it possible that Pokémon Go is headed to the same conclusion?
In my personal opinion, Pokémon Go is doomed. While I would love to see it thrive, and go on catching Pokémon as long as I am able, I worry that the bubble will burst sooner rather than later. As is often said, the brightest flame burns quickest, and Pokémon Go was practically a supernova at launch. Niantic may try to fix issues in the game, but I fear the damage is already done. Players have lost faith in the company and thus the game. Without divine intervention from Nintendo or a complete 180 in terms of Niantic’s PR, we’re headed for a sad ending to a game with great potential.
Who knows, maybe things will turn around! But in my opinion, Pokémon Go is less likely to be a social revolution and more likely to be a cautionary tale of what not to do when your game is a worldwide success.
Let us know your opinion in the comments below! Do you think there’s hope? Or should we all stick to console games?