Saturday, July 30th was a big day for Pokémon GO as it was updated for both Android and iOS devices. Highlights of the update include avatars that can be re-customized, improved memory issues, some adjusted battle move damage values(sorry Vaporean, you are no longer top gym dog) and various bug fixes during Pokémon encounters. Since the update the game does seem to be running smoother and with less glitches and freezing upon capturing. The re-customization option is nice as well although nothing new was added.
The biggest thing that has people talking about this patch though has to be the removal of the footprints for nearby Pokémon. When the game was first launched, in order to find a Pokémon you would look at the the nearby list and see up to nine various Pokémon with one to three footprints underneath them. The closer you walked to a particular Pokémon the higher in the list it would climb and the number of footprints would eventually reduce to zero, allowing it to spawn for you to try and catch it. This method of tracking only worked for about the first week of release in the U.S., after that, all the Pokémon had three steps under them. The now infamous 3 step glitch. It was still possible to track certain Pokémon but it took a little more effort. This spawned many 3rd party sites and apps to launch allowing you to track Pokémon spawns. Pokevision was one such site, drawing 470,955 unique visitors a day according to webmaster.net.
CEO John Hanke of Niantic stated during various interviews and at a panel during the recent San Diego Comic Con that he did not approve of these 3rd party sites as they used back end data from Niantic’s servers, thereby violating the game’s terms of service. To him, using such sites is cheating, taking fun out of the game, and while no immediate action was going to be taken people should be mindful that Niantic would be taking steps to curb the use of them.
That day has come it seems. With the removal of footsteps from the game completely, sites like Pokevision are broken. What’s going on? Niantic is blocking the API that these sites were using to cull data from. Not only are the 3rd party sites broken but Pokémon GO’s own tracking system is broken as well. Whether this was intentional or not, is not known at this time. Niantic has been silent on the issue, as they have on many other issues since the games launch.
While writing this Game Revolution has sounded off about this overall subject as well. This silence, along with a game that is now almost completely broken in many players eyes, has caused a lot of anger over the last 24 hours. One only has to look at Twitter and Facebook to see the upset over this newest development. What Hanke perhaps doesn’t understand is that most people were using 3rd party sites because the game’s own system wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t making the game any less fun, in fact it was making it more so. There are only so many Pidgeys and Weedles one can catch before getting bored and moving on to another game. If Niantic would just fix the tracking system in game, many people would stop using 3rd party sites. Sure some people would still use them, but there wouldn’t be nearly the demand for them as there would be if a good tracking system were implemented in the game itself.
To give an example of just how broken the game is, last night some friends and myself were sitting at a lured Pokéstop when we all saw an Onix appear on the nearby list. Another gentleman let us know he had already searched one direction so we set off in the opposite. Of the four of us searching, two of us showed the Onix in 6th place on the nearby list, another had it in 1st, and the last of our group had it going between 3rd and 4th. Needless to say, we did not find it. It seems the point of the game now is to just wander aimlessly and hope something good spawns near you. To me that is the opposite of fun. If a Pikachu pops up on the nearby list now there is no hope of tracking it before they despawn.
Is this the end of Pokémon GO? Probably not, but without a reliable tracking system, I do not think many players will be playing as much or as often as before. Hopefully Niantic will see this and either push a fix out or at the very least, let it’s player base know when it will be fixed. For now it’s #pokémon GO(NE).