Pokevision And Other Pokemon GO Trackers Shut Down For Unclear Reasons

Last week, Niantic's John Hanke warned Pokemon Go players that popular tracking websites may no longer work in the future. It seems that moment has now arrived.

Yesterday, Pokemon Go received a new update that, among other things, got rid of the "footsteps" mechanic that alerted players of how far away other monsters were spawning. The mechanic, as it existed before the update, became the source of much frustration because it inaccurately displayed every single critter at the maximum distance -- making it nearly impossible to track down specific monsters.

Despite this bug, players still had an option to hunt down Pokemon: using websites such as Pokevision. Such tracking websites were capable of displaying exactly where creatures would spawn, and could also tell players how long the monsters would be available for, functionality leagues ahead of what the actual game offered. Millions of players took a particular liking to services like Pokevision, not just because of the obvious utility, but because, unlike Niantic, fan-led trackers kept users informed about any downtime:

Fast forward to the latest Pokemon Go update: not only is Pokevision no longer useable...

Pokevision's updates to Twitter are also not encouraging:

I reached out to Yangcheng Liu, Pokevision's proprietor, and he was cagey about what he could and could not say about the situation. When I asked him if Pokevision was down because of high volume, he assured me that traffic has been the same, and that he could not say anything further. When Forbes asked Liu if Pokevision would be down indefinitely, he responded it "possibly could be."

While loved by many, services like Pokevision have always operated in a murky grey area. Beyond arguably enabling cheating, tracking websites/apps often also break Pokemon Go's terms of services. Some trackers, like Poke Hound, outright charged money for tracking Pokemon. Unsurprisingly, Niantic has reportedly been shutting such websites/apps down, with multiple developers around the web sharing cease and desist letters:

Pictured: Poke Hound's Cease and Desist, which was shared on Twitter by Poke Hound. Poke Hound appears to have deleted their Twitter account since then, though.

All of this evidence comes together to make it seem as if Niantic or The Pokemon Company have taken action against Pokemon Go trackers. In turn, players are left with no option other than to wander aimlessly while playing Pokemon Go. It's a frustrating experience, and this has led players have taken to voice their displeasure on social media:

The community seems to agree with my assessment from last week: rather than "tak[ing] some fun out of the game," as Hanke alleged, services like Poke Vision only enhance the Pokemon Go experience, especially in its current form.

While it would be easy to paint Niantic as the villain here, it's possible that the situation with Pokemon Go tracking websites may be more complicated than it appears. Looking back at Ingress, Niantic's previous game, we can see that Niantic has actually experienced this exact problem before. Like Pokemon Go, Ingress also had fan-developed mapping services, and these reportedly taxed servers so much, they ended up making the experience worse for everyone. Ingress was also a significantly smaller game than Pokemon Go.

At the very least, given the clear terms of service, Niantic is definitely within its right to shut down tracking services -- it's just not a very cool move given the current state of the game. Personally, I know that I've been playing a lot less since the three-step glitch, and I'm less inclined to play now that the feature is no longer in the game. I'm hoping that Niantic is hard at work at a better tracking solution than the previous footsteps system, which nobody could figure out anyway.

We reached out to Niantic about Pokemon Go tracking services, but did not hear back in time for publication. It's also worth noting that, while websites like Pokevision no longer work, services like Poke Radar -- which rely on user reports rather than Niantic's API -- still do. Given Niantic's silence on the subject of in-game tracking (we've asked them about it to no avail; Hanke has avoided the question at places like SDCC and in other interviews), the community might already be at a tipping point though:

Source: r/PokemonGo

Source: r/PokemonGo


Comments

    I was already starting to play less before they removed the steps completely. Looking at maps like PokeVision and one I ran myself using scripts I found made me realise just how broken spawns are in this game.

    Seems to be mostly luck based on whether you live/work in the right area to begin with. Some people will always have to go out of their way to find pokemon whilst others can just stay put. That applies to even just within one suburb let alone regional vs suburbs vs cities. I won't even get started on pokestop/gym location advantages.

    The spawn mechanic needs a complete overhaul. Need to distribute spawns more evenly rather than seemingly relying on outdated mobile usage data.

    Really disillusioned with this game now. It seemed so great at the start and I was forgiving of all the bugs and server issues but seeing just how broken it is now and Niantic don't communicate at all....just not good enough.

    Last edited 01/08/16 9:23 am

    Cheating website got taken down?
    Fine by me.
    Tracking was broken, they didn't get it fixed for this update so they removed the steps to not confuse everyone that hadn't realised. Probably will be back in the next fortnightly update. Don't understand the craziness. But I guess nerd rage?

      It's more than just the steps being gone, at least for me. That in itself doesn't bother me much but I've seen how broken the spawn mechanics are in general and there's just too much wrong with this game with no communication from Niantic.

      I feel like the vibe is that maybe Niantec should have fixed their game before going after services that fixed it for them. The game's pretty much unplayable without steps and Pokevision was a good work around.

        Pokevision wasn't a work around. It was a massive upgrade over what the vision was for tracking Pokemon. It's like reading the whole walkthrough of a game before you play the first level. Tracking pokemon was a game mechanic. This straight up told you where they were. Admittedly it's broken, but this service is huge overkill.

          The tracking websites might be like "walkthroughs", but the state of the game at the moment is as if they replaced all the quest giver NPC dialogue with the same generic text, no matter what the objectives were.

          When the nearby feature worked in the beta, I frequently went out of my way to try and track down a pokemon that showed up. It's just not worth doing that kind of thing any more.

            It's bugged out, they are fixing it. Let's cheat instead!

      I don't see it as cheating, I see it as making a severely broken app playable. As far as I'm concerned until Niantic fix the tracking mechanic they should leave pokevision alone.

        yet hough it some have so many aw3so.e Poke mom that it's hard to beat their gyms.

      So would you define looking up a Pokemon's location in the Pokedex as cheating?

      Didn't think so.

        Oh, does your pokedex tell you exactly where pokemon are at all times, when they will despawn and whatnot outside of the set gameplay by the developers?

      I fully agree with darren. Sites like Pokevision gave those who used them massive advantages over those who chose not to or those who didn't know they exist, and was likely a main reason for why the non-cheaters now have to deal with Gyarados, Snorlax, Lapras, and Dragonite in every second gym.

      This is a multiplayer game, guys. It'd be like if there were a glitch in Call of Duty that disabled the radar (those games have radars, right?) and so I downloaded a hack that not only fixed the radar, but gave me wall hacking and an aimbot as well. Yeah, I can claim I'm just trying to fix the broken radar, but that doesn't stop it giving me a massive advantage over everyone not using it.

      Last edited 01/08/16 11:09 am

        there's heaps of gyrados around where I live because the city waterfront has a ton of pokestops so people can farm magikarp

        But, it doesn't matter if the pokemon in there is a 2k snorlax.. it takes no time at all to bring down a 2k snorlax and take over a gym. PvP is not a deal breaker in this game...

        Last edited 01/08/16 12:56 pm

    I don't disagree that stuff like Pokévision is cheating, or at least not playing the game as intended. The problem is that, with tracking disabled in the game combined that with the reported reduction in ping range (100m down to 70m), hunting is more or less impossible for anyone who wants to find a specific Pokémon.

    I saw a Kadabra on my Nearby list this morning and I'd have missed my train to go hunt it down, but I just don't have enough information to do that; I'd just be wandering the streets for 10 minutes until I gave up. I get why they don't like Pokévision, but to take it down while they're also no fix on the other issues is not great for the game.

    One of the tweets: "fixed floors in your app" ... Those damn floors, they haven't been vacuumed in ages!

      I like the one that says it's "neigh unplayable". Must have something to do with not being able to catch a ponyta.

      Last edited 01/08/16 9:37 am

    The only reason they care about these external apps is due to the negative impact on their revenue...
    If the only thing normally/regularly appearing in your routine area is Zubats and Weedles your only option is to pop lures or incense, which cost money.
    Using the external apps greatly reduces the need to induce random encounters via hard cash - which is what the Niantic actually cares about at the end of the day not apps removing the "Fun"

    I blame Googles development philosophy, releasing 10% of the real game as a full product "Beta" without stress or bug fixes or a development team able to handle the OBVIOUS popularity is absurd. (The whole niaintic saying they were overwhelmed by the popularity is insane, its like their marketing and analytics section of Google didnt try to google PokemonGo and see the youtube video had 24 million views and was reposted to total closer 60 million views - most viewed mobile game trailer in history)

    RIP Pokevision, i'm not a huge player, i only ever checked to see what was out there locally other than the same Geodude, Pidgey, Rattata and Ekans.

      No Zubats? Man I'd love to be there...

        They do spawn but not as regular as the 4 i mentioned.

    1) Create highly successful mobile app loved by millions
    2) Suffer game breaking issues with said app not long after release
    3) Fail to fix your shit in good time
    4) Don't profit

    Last edited 01/08/16 11:07 am

      Not that niantic care or will ever see this but I won't spend any more in the game. I had spend about $30, now zip. Screw over other people who help make your game more popular and playable? Bad idea. I don't feel like walking aimlessly in circles thanks. Pokemon spawns are so rare where I live, (11km from Melbourne cbd no less). That there is only 2 or 3 on 'nearby'. Without Pokevision.com pokemon go is unplayable. Guess pokemon go dies as fast as it started?

    OMG. People need to calm the F down. Its a bloody game FFS

    If you want to try something that works play Ingress. Its pokemon GO for Adults.

    Unless they can fix the "near by" feature ASAP, this game is dead to me. I simply don't have the time to wander around in the hope of finding something good.
    With Pokevision I could decide if it was worth my time heading out for a "hunt".

    I just want to catch them all, I could care less about gyms.

    Honestly im starting to play way less already...

    there is a limit on how much random I can take..

    the nearby system is terrible and doesn't work..

    I honestly don't know why pokevision is cheating... its not like PVP is deal breaker here.

    What the heck is Niantic doing? Their idea of fixing a problem is to remove the feature all together from the game, and on top of that have websites removed that alleviated the problem the their own solution? Are they trying to kill the app themselves? Because they're doing a fantastic job at that.

    I remember in the original trailer for GO back a year ago it portrayed the "nearby" feature as actually giving you a direction and distance. Game comes out and we get this strange steps system with no explanation on how it works. Then the 3-step glitch happens and Niantic is completely silent. No communication with the player-base. We are instead left to find our own solution to the problem.

    And what a problem it is. The 3-step glitch doesn't just incorrectly show distance, it also shows completely incorrect Pokemon. A few nights ago I went into the city for dinner. As I was finishing a Machamp showed on the radar. I checked Pokevision and saw nothing, but I did see a Haunter and Rhydon nearby that weren't showing in-game. Found those later two, but never found that Machamp. Same thing when I headed home: Radar showed 2 each of Voltorbs & Scythers in the area. Never found them and they weren't on Pokevision. But the Bulbasaur & Gastley were exactly where Pokevision said they'd be. Even now after the update the radar still displays wrong Pokemon.

    Until something is done I don't see myself playing the app anymore, and I definitely cannot justify spending any more money on a broken app whose creators wont even address the problems. Pokevision got me out of the house as it gave me a direction to walk, jog, and even run towards to reach a goal. Now all I'm left with is to wander aimlessly in hopes something appears. No thank you.

    well pokedetector is still working so i don't know what the "and other"s are...
    Although it has been taken down from the store.

    Last edited 01/08/16 1:29 pm

    To me the update is suggestive of a worrying trend in problem "solving". A feature doesn't work? Why fix it when they can just remove it! The iOS version no longer has battery saver mode thanks to this thinking. That removal has destroyed the game for me far more than the distance thing.

    "For unclear reasons" it's against the ToS you shit head. That's about as clear as it gets.

    Not necessarily. Although I understand what you mean and in some instances that would be correct, I think the bigger issue is the shear number of people playing and that it hasn't been rolled out in every market yet. The steps were causing drag on their servers and so was poke vision, eliminate them both and now they have the stability to debut in new markets and rake in the cash before people stop playing because they removed any type of interesting functionality. I'm sure they "probably" will bring it back but I think their biggest concern is drawing in more money from more markets, not the playability for the current.

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