‘Pokemon GO’ Usage Still Strong Despite Backlash Over Changes, Beats Facebook

The recent controversial changes to Pokémon GO do not seem to be having an effect on its usage. A report from Sensor Tower indicates usage of Niantic Labs’ hit Android and iOS app actually increased slightly and still beats Facebook.

The 0.31 and 1.1.0 update to Android and iOS versions of Pokémon GO released this past Saturday resulted in the removal of distance “footprint” indicators from the app’s in-game tracker. Prior to that, a July 15 update made all Pokémon display in the tracker with three steps. The in-game locator was using footsteps to show how far away Pokémon are from users. One footstep is approximately 10 meters, and two footsteps are within 100 meters, and three footsteps are within a kilometer. The number of steps changed as players moved closer or further away from individual Pokémon.

After a mounting backlash, Niantic later explained the removal of the footsteps in the in-game tracker was to “improve upon the underlying design. The original feature, although enjoyed by many, was also confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals.”

Pokemon Go - Step Tracking Removed

Additionally, Pokémon GO players were blocked from using popular third-party applications like PokeVision and Poke Radar with the last update to the game. Niantic cut off the applications from accessing the game’s servers because they were “interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users and to bring Pokémon GO to users around the world.”

Unfortunately, the removal of footsteps as part of in-game tracking and the blocking of third-party applications caused a backlash against Niantic Labs and Pokémon GO among fans and the media. Reviews of the game on Apple’s App Store took a precipitous dip with 62 percent of all ratings in the United States following the update at two or fewer stars. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s home country of Japan saw nearly 82 percent of all ratings falling on the negative side after the update.

The backlash to the removal was also strong on social media and community sites like the Pokémon GO Reddit forum. In addition to a laundry list of complaints, fans created memes and even videos about the changes and Niantic Labs’ lack of communication.

Pokemon Go Usage After Update (Sensor Tower)

All of this negative activity does not appear to have affected Pokémon GO players actually playing the game. The apps usage increased slightly from 25 minutes, 40 seconds before the most recent update to 26 minutes, five seconds after the update, according to Sensor Tower. That still beats Facebook, which actually saw overall usage in the United States drop 18 seconds during the same time frame.

Note this only covers usage in the United States and not the total number of players. Some attrition is expected for a mobile title and a Survey Monkey report showed the number of daily active users peaked at just over 25 million on July 14. There’s been no update to the number of daily active users since July 20, so it is difficult to discern the number of active users since then.

It may still be difficult to get a clear picture of Pokémon GO active users without breaking the game down by region. Niantic Labs has been releasing the game to different countries slowly due to the intense demand placed on their servers. The game just launched in Brazil Wednesday following releases in France, Japan, Canada, and over two dozen other countries. The game has officially reached over 75 million downloads worldwide. The number of users will continue to grow, but it will be challenging to figure out the breakdown of die-hards versus casual players until releasing the title to new countries ceases.

Have the recent changes to Pokémon GO affected how much you play the game? Sound off in the comments below.

[Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images]