By now, you’ve heard of Pokémon Go. It was the smash hit by the gaming studio Niantic that more or less put location based gaming on the map. Excuse the pun. It wasn’t their first game, but it was by far their most popular. Easily raking in millions of dollars, the initial success of Pokémon Go brought forth a renewed interest in the series not seen since its release in the states. However, even upon its release the problems were evident.
(Check out our Podcast discussing Pokemon GO and other Mobile Games.)
Constant crashes and glitches, broken servers, a massive battery drain, and missing features (such as trading and an actual way to battle Pokémon) plagued the released build of the game. Some even report that the game had less features on launch than it did in it’s beta phase. Still, trainers across the world would not give up their chance to catch Pokémon in the real world. At the time, it was a case of people taking what they could get.
So how could Niantic screw this up, right? Well…
First, it began with their Pokémon tracker. Long story short, it was busted. It was hardly ever accurate and Niantic did nothing to teach the player about it’s use. As a matter of fact, many features that the game had were more or less explained by the community because Niantic doesn’t seem to know what a tutorial is. The argument was made that this was a design choice by Niantic so players would be forced to explore and interact with others to figure it all out, and for sake of argument lets say that was the case. The bigger issue was that no matter bow much community input there was, no one could figure out the tracker.
So, as many people of the Internet do, they created their solution: PokeVision and various other tracker sites. With these sites, players could now reliably find the Pokémon they hoped to find within their cities. This was especially important for those who lived in areas where Pokémon were naturally rare since another since Pokémon appearances seemed to be…lets say “biased” to certain areas. For a time, things were good. People could organize meetups, the money poured in for lure modules and Pokeballs and Niantic was making a killing.
So here comes the second problem, and currently their biggest: the shutdown of tracker sites. One day, players woke up to see that PokeVision was no longer active. Why? Niantic shut them down. Player outrage was almost immediate from people who simply ranted to those who demanded refunds on their purchases. To make matters worse, Niantic remained silent through the bulk of the ordeal. It would later be revealed that the reasoning behind the shutdowns would be because of server access (supposedly) but the damage had been done. People were angry and the player base began to dip. Most who stayed already found ways to cheat the system or were loyalists who thought the sites were cheating anyway. But even those people have their limits.
Exhibit three: hidden updates. People were happy to see Niantic somewhat being vocal about their decisions, yet it was what wasn’t said that began to spark interest. With their latest update at the time, tracking had been completely removed, leaving trainers to wander about to find Pokémon on their own with no direction. Some would argue that is the point, but I digress. What players began to see was the new difficulty spike in capturing Pokémon. With only luck on the player’s side to begin with, the odds were now tipped against them. To make matters worse, they made the rate of Pokémon sightings rarer for people biking or riding in a vehicle. The final straw became a glitch (?) where Pokémon hatched from an egg could simply disappear. With so much against it, the game’s player base took another dip and here we are in present day.
A game that swept the nation is now already on life support. Myself and many friends have already lost interest and with Pokémon Sun and Moon’s release date growing ever closer, it will be difficult for this game to continue its relevancy unless Niantic makes some big changes. So far, they’ve begun tweaking their tracking system and perhaps that’s what’ll revive interest. But the biggest problem here is Niantic’s inability to be straight with it’s player base. It was a problem with their last game, Ingress and it is very much a problem here.
Here’s to hoping Niantic can humble themselves and save this game. As a person who loves Pokémon Go (enough to buy merch of it) I don’t want it to die due to neglect and fade away as a fad. What about you guys? Is the game savable? Or has Niantic made irreparable damage to what could have been their prize game? Let us know below. Discuss!