Even Pokemon GO's Biggest Fans Are Turning Against It Right Now

In the course of a few weeks, Pokemon GO has gone from a mega hit, to a broken game that even its most ardent fans cannot defend. This shift in the community is due to mostly one thing: A lack of communication from Niantic. It's been like this since the beginning, really. When Pokemon GO originally launched, the servers were constantly overloaded, and remained that way for over a week -- an unusually long time, even for a popular game. Niantic didn't say much at the time, though they did eventually stabilise things, so the community tolerated it.

Over the last couple of weeks, tensions have been brewing thanks to the "Nearby" mechanic, which used to denote how far away monsters were located:

No pawprints meant the critter was close, and three pawprints meant the creature was at the maximum distance away. While it was hard to parse and use for tracking Pokemon, many were able to use it to successfully hunt specific monsters within their vicinity. Pokemon GO may not have launched with all of the features that it originally promised, but it was still fun enough to enjoy, with the biggest draw being finding as many different monsters as you could.

Then, something strange happened: Every monster started appeared at the maximum distance on the Nearby tab, making it impossible to track down any monsters. This became known by the community as the three-step glitch, and it plagued the game for weeks. Niantic never really talked about it, beyond telling people that they were aware of it during a panel at SDCC, and then avoiding questions about the glitch altogether when asked about it by press (Kotaku included). Players weren't very happy about that situation.

Last weekend, Niantic got rid of the steps altogether in an update:

And then, to rub salt in the wound, it appears that Niantic are also shutting down websites that help people track down specific monsters within the game too. The only way to play now is to go in blind.

Fans are livid. So pissed, in fact, that some who dropped actual money on the free-to-play app are asking for refunds in droves. Others elected to flood the app with one-star reviews on the app store, and are encouraging everyone to follow suit:

Things have only escalated from there, with users doing everything they can to voice their displeasure with Niantic:

r/Pokemongo

r/PokemonGo

Today, Pokemon GO received a new update:

The one thing people actually care about -- tracking monsters -- was not addressed in this update. The current conspiracy theory is that Niantic introduced a useless update just to wipe out negative reviews from last weekend, and while that's certainly possible, it's more likely that this is one of those bi-weekly updates that Pokemon GO was always slated to have. When a game updates so frequently, chances are pretty good that the average tweak will mostly address minor stuff.

But we don't actually know. Niantic is a black, unknowable box that only speaks vaguely about future plans, if they talk about them at all. Despite all the rage pouring from the internet right now, Niantic has said nothing about what they're doing about tracking, or if the feature is gone forever. Players don't know if Niantic is hard at work getting stuff up and running; there's little on social media that actively addresses complaints or assuages fear. Discouragingly, even the official Niantic support page has gotten rid of any mention of tracking. The effect is that the community is left alone to bubble and boil in its anger.

Maybe it's just a vocal minority who is going too far. Pokemon GO has millions of players, and only a small number of them are on Reddit and Twitter, drafting campaigns to bring Niantic down -- or at least get its attention somehow. Then again, tracking is a feature that is important to everybody, not just folks who go through the trouble of figuring out whether a monster has the right IVs or not. Even the average person understands that it is more fun to find new monsters that they haven't caught yet, rather than to settle for endless Rattatas. That's why millions of people used services like PokeVision in the first place.

One of the many popular anti-Niantic images that is circulating now.

I've spoken to players who live in rural areas, where Pokemon are either sparse or shitty. They want to know how to track monsters better. I've spoken to players with children, or who lead busy lives, and they can't just waste hours wandering around in the real world, in the vain hopes of finding a decent Pokemon. They want to track down monsters better. I've spoken to people with depression, who tell me that it is easier to motivate themselves to go outside when they have clear, specific goals. They want to track down monsters better, too.

And why not? Even in the main games, once you capture something, the Pokedex outright tells you everywhere else you can capture that specific Pokemon. Personally, I also tend to reference Serebii for monster locations too constantly while on my 3DS, and it's never gotten in the way of my enjoyment of the games. The same is true of Pokemon GO, perhaps even more so thanks to Pokemon GO's social component. Even if the app told me exactly where to go, I'd still have to physically go there, and would likely stop along any PokeStops along the way.

I think Niantic knows that tracking is an important feature, too. I mean -- in its current state, the "Nearby" tab is useless. What good is it to know there might be a Squirtle somewhere within a one kilometre radius if I don't know where to go? Beyond that, if we look at the original trailer for Pokemon GO, you'll note something interesting:

As the people play, the game is telling them where to go, marking specific monsters and updating distances in real-time:

At some point, Niantic also believed that knowing exactly where to go didn't ruin Pokemon GO. Maybe things have changed since then. Until Niantic says differently, I'll take the reveal trailer to be the most idealised version of Pokemon GO. That version of Pokemon GO, the one that doesn't force people to wander aimlessly, may be on its way. Niantic may be working on it as you read this, and that's exactly what makes this whole situation so excruciating. It's possible that everyone is crucifying a developer who does want to make things better, but because they're not communicating enough with the playerbase, people find it easier to believe that Niantic is just just an uncaring corporate entity. Desperate players who can't find anything good are more likely to purchase lures to attract monsters to their location, after all.

In 2016, it is not enough to build and launch the most popular game of the year. You have to talk to people, earn their trust, develop a relationship. If nothing else, Niantic is in dire need of community managers who make an effort to connect with players. People already love Pokemon GO, but with things the way they are, nobody is really sure if Pokemon GO loves them back.


Comments

    I'm thinking it's a lawyer thing. With all the news stories about people who have been going into dangerous places while tracking Pokemon, it would be only a matter of time before someone sued Niantic, saying that the app told them to go there and therefore Niantic is responsible for whatever injury/loss/damage that person suffered.

    Same deal with allowing third party apps to scrape the server, although this would be less troublesome for Niantic - it might just be a case of sour grapes.

    I don't know though, if removing the tracking feature leads to the app bombing in $$$/day microtransaction sales, Niantic might decide to reinstate the feature and take its chances with potential law suits.

      Would explain why the app now tells you not to go into dangerous places when you start it up.

    Community manager is supposedly on maternity leave so there is one big thing they should have sorted out - get someone else in or at least have John release some statements - heck, he's doing interviews and stuff.

    Pretty sure they have stated they are on a fortnightly update schedule, so that's why there was an update, not to wipe out bad reviews. There was some game balancing and stability stuff in there too, not just a 'random update'.

    The nerd rage is pretty funny. Three steps glitch meant all pokemon were marked as far away. They removed the steps while they are working on a fix (rumoured in next release) and people lost their shit. It's functionally identical to how it was before EXCEPT not it doesn't show all pokemon as max distance which was incorrect. So now it is more correct. Oh, and also they disabled some forms of cheating. Boo hoo.

      Totally, it's a fascinating read on expectations of the audience.

      The modern game development as a service way of thinking means we are constantly in a QA phase, we don't get a proper, finished product from the start. That's the key difference older names in video-games either hold on to doggedly to their detriment (Nintendo) or try and make work while also trying to adapt to the always-online model (Capcom).

      The newer, more nimble ones like Niantic et al probably don't have the corporate view of PR baked into them, so for now it's easier to not respond to the bat signal in the sky and hope everybody thinks they're busy fighting nasties.

      Yes I pulled a muscle with that strained metaphor. I am sorry.

        Its not game development mentality... its Google way of thinking. Lets roll it quietly out, everything they have done is a half completed beta or pet project and they let people think its great while we still work on it until its a huge success or dies quickly.

        How long was Gmail in Beta, Google Glass around before they gave up and made people pay for the experience.

        Google the home if internet search, analytics, media and advertising... couldnt tell one of its own companies that based on search history and views of trailers, beta footage and blog posts they would have more thsn a million players and that they would have closer to 15 million players is ridiculous.. it was the highest view mobile game trailer in history of youtube.

        John Hanke did say the game is at 10% of where they want it to be. It's going to be continually improved and I'm looking forward to where it's going. Having a great time playing with friends and coming across rare pokemon. It's a completely free game too! Although I have dropped a little coin on it, I've paid much more for full priced games that I've played less.

      Two weeks before it came out their Marketing Lead was hosting a small Ingress event and he clearly wasnt focused on this cause he said "later this year"... not Oh $/^$# it goes live in 10 days WTF am I doing here.

      No, they just don't actually have a community manager for PokemonGo, the community manager for Ingress confirmed it. They're currently hiring one though.

        Ahh righto. One of their community managers for Ingress died. That was sad, I followed him on Google+ :(

      Actually I would call the "nerd rage" warranted in this case.
      (Not the insane lot who go too far, but most people who are annoyed or angry)

      Once you strip back the nonsense, the vocal extreme, the entitled few etc. You are left with a catastrophic lack of communication as the problem, no ifs or buts about it.
      In this day and age, there is simply no excuse for going radio dark on your consumer base.

      No matter the game, there is a toxic element, even when they have good communication.
      But the toxicity doesn't envelop or define the game.
      When it hits a level where the negative issues overtake coverage and become the talking point of your product, you have to look at your operations.

        I think the calling for refunds over an update that removed a broken feature while they work on it is entitled, over the top and a perfect definition or nerd rage.
        But I totally agree that the communication is lacking. Sadly, this was much the same with Ingress although were was at least some community feedback, the portal appeal google+ page for instance. I got a few approved through there.

          I agree, but over time I've come to view the crazies as a necessary evil also.

          If the toxic hordes force them to change their practices, I would say it serves a purpose and saves many of us from having to go off the reserve ourselves.

    While it might just be a vocal minority, the danger is that the silent majority of people who are playing it casually will just move on without saying anything if it stops being something they can enjoy.

    I'm still playing and enjoying it, the steps thing is a non issue (at least for me)

      Same. I think I used it once to find a Weepinbell. I step away was basically "this pokemon will appear on your screen in 5 seconds" 2 steps was "walk around, it's close" and 3 steps was "You can go on a 5k walk, I'll still be 3 steps".
      So 2 steps was the only one that was anywhere near useful for tracking. And when it did work, I only used it the 1 time.

    School holidays killed it for me.
    fckn creepy how many kids just come up and talk to you because you have your phone out.

      probably why they are trying to legislate that pedo's cant play

        Blame should also be put on the kids too, you shouldnt approach a stranger regardless.

    I've been watching reddit and seeing the reaction. I'm a bit annoyed about the lack of communication myself but not to the extent that I'd rage about bugs in a game that was released 3 weeks ago. Should games be bug free at release? Yes. Will they ever be when devs can easily send out updates/patches in the modern world? No.

    That said I'm playing the game a lot less than I was before. Currently level 22 with over 100 caught in my pokedex. My main focus is catching new/rare pokemon and evolving others. For both of those I need to be able to reliably find/track the pokemon I need rather than just stumbling on them. In the current form of the game this is impossible so I've stopped going on Pokemon Go specific "journeys" and just play it when I'm on the bus or walking somewhere. I've also stopped spending money on the game.

    Before the mapping software took hit I saw enough of the spawn mechanics to know that it isn't balanced even within just one suburb and that there are objectively better paths to walk between any two locations just based on where spawns will/will not occur. This means without a map or a reliable way to track you're just wasting your time going hunting.

    I'm more angry at the changes to catch rates than the tracking crap. You waste a bucketload more Pokeballs to try to catch things that end up just running away since the update (even low level CP creatures). It ends up looking like a move to make people waste more balls so they are forced to buy them - and I hate microtransactions.

    Something Something HYPE, Something Something Nostalgia.
    Let's face it. It's a pretty crappy game. If it wasn't for the Pokemon skin, no one would play this.
    I believe a game should stand on it's own two feet without relying on a popular franchise . If the game is good, the franchise just makes it better and gives free marketing. If the game is bad, the franchise gives it a hype spike and then people see through the thin veil and move on.

    As usual these days, I think they missed the mark with what could have been an amazing game.

    We could have had proper battles, poke centers to heal up, fight and trade with other trainers.

    They could have really promoted the outdoors, send people to national parks and beaches.
    Pokemon could have been location specific, eg, forests, lakes, rocky mountains, deserts, beaches etc... and people would actually have to travel/explore... or trade.

    Instead being in the city is much better. and we get a random number generator with crappy GPS integration and an absolutely horrible battle and leveling system.

    As someone thats never used a tracker outside of the official app, Im not fussed about any of this. People need to understand the scope of whats going on here. Chill the frack out.

    I've put the game down while this whole tracking issue is addressed. I really enjoyed hunting down pokemon but without a clear and simple way to do so now really dampens the experience. Not one to sit a lure and wait.

    Just imagine if gamers actually cared as deeply about real world issues as they do with games. Things in the world might change for the better, in the meantime *cough* first world problem.

    angry angry nerds.

    "I'm not happy about my free game!"

    meh. I still catching them. Just takes a little more effort.

Join the discussion!