‘Pokemon Go’: Niantic Responds To In-Game Step Removal, Blocking PokeVision

Niantic Labs has taking a beating from the Pokémon Go community and media since the last update to the game removed the footstep track in-game and blocked third-party apps for tracking Pokémon as well. The developer finally responded to the controversy early Tuesday morning with a Facebook post addressing the two burning issues and the company’s lack of communication with fans.

As previously covered, the footstep tracker in Pokémon Go worked when the game first launched on July 5. Nearby Pokémon were displayed with one, two, or three footsteps in the track to note how far they were from the player’s current location. This was effectively disabled in a July 15 update for Android and iOS that showed all Pokémon with three footsteps underneath.

“We have removed the ‘3-step’ display in order to improve upon the underlying design,” Niantic explained. “The original feature, although enjoyed by many, was also confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals. We will keep you posted as we strive to improve this feature.”

Pokemon Go - Step Tracking Removed
[Image via Pokemon Go]

This statement is interesting as the Pokémon Go beta used actual meters in the game’s “Nearby” tracker versus the less explained footstep method. When and how Niantic will change the feature in a future update is anybody’s guess.

The move to disable in-game tracking resulted in driving fans to third-party applications like PokéVision and Poké Radar. Unfortunately, some of these applications used the game’s servers to pull data from the game’s servers to show where Pokémon were located. Niantic blocked these applications to prevent any impact on the Pokémon Go servers.

“We have limited access by third-party services which were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users and to bring Pokémon GO to users around the world. The large number of users has made the roll-out of Pokémon GO around the world an… interesting… challenge. And we aren’t done yet! Yes, Brazil, we want to bring the game to you (and many other countries where it is not yet available),” the developer offered.

Pokemon Go popularity
Pokemon Go popularity in the US is dwindling. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Communication between Niantic and users of the app has also been a sticking point. The game’s official Twitter and Facebook feeds are rarely updated and usually just with references announcing a new territory or patch.

The studio is relatively small and also supports another geocaching game called Ingress, which Pokémon Go was built from. The developer has been busy trying to fix issues from the launch and releasing the game in other countries, so it hasn’t had much time for communicating with fans.

“We have read your posts and emails and we hear the frustration from folks in places where we haven’t launched yet, and from those of you who miss these features. We want you to know that we have been working crazy hours to keep the game running as we continue to launch globally. If you haven’t heard us Tweeting much it’s because we’ve been heads down working on the game. But we’ll do our best going forward to keep you posted on what’s going on,” the studio offered as an apology.

Part of the problem appears to be that the game does not have a dedicated Community Manager at the moment. Niantic Labs has one employee in the role, but he primarily works on Ingress. Pokémon Go News spotted a Twitter post from the current Community Manager showing the studio is hiring another person to be focused solely on the incredibly popular game of catching them all.

The help would definitely be welcome from a consumer perspective. The Facebook post from Niantic addressed the two burning issues, but left other problems unmentioned. This includes the increased rate of Pokémon escaping and fleeing during capture attempts, plus problems rural players are experiencing finding the creatures or even PokéStops and Gyms.

With over 80 million downloads, Niantic and Nintendo risk turning off a sizable portion of the Pokémon Go community while it is at its most popular point if they don’t properly explain changes and the removal of certain features.

What do you think of Niantic Labs statement for Pokémon Go? Sound off in the comments below.

[Photo by AP Photo/Koji Sasahara]