‘Pokemon GO’ Nearby Tracker: Is It Really Worse Than ‘Sightings’ Feature?

Not everyone has the returning feature just yet, but initial reviews of Pokemon GO‘s new Nearby tracker suggest that it may be new alright, but not necessarily improved.

When Pokemon GO first launched in July, all you had to do, in theory, was to make use of the footstep tracker to determine how far away wild creatures are. This feature, however, turned out to be buggy and unreliable, and disappeared just a few weeks after the game’s release. A report from Android Police detailed how the footstep tracker had first stopped working, and how Pokemon GO maker Niantic decided to do away with the tracker altogether, instead replacing it with a “vague” Sightings feature that shows players a list of Pokemon that are nearby, but doesn’t indicate how far away they’re located.

While players did eventually get used to the Sightings feature, Niantic announced in November that a new Pokemon GO Nearby tracker would be debuting soon, with beta tests to take place in select cities. Polygon reported around that time that this “reworked” version of the original footstep tracker would be available in time to all players, and now that we’re in the last few weeks of the year, the feature has just arrived in the United States and in some parts of Europe. But is it any good when compared to the original tracker, or even to Sightings, which reports suggest is being phased out?

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According to Mic, a lot of users aren’t pleased with how the new Pokemon GO Nearby tracker has turned out. While Sightings showed you some of the Pokemon that were in your vicinity at any given time and the footstep tracker showed footstep icons next to the creatures to show you their proximity from your current location, the new tracker doesn’t feature any of that.

Tapping on the Nearby tool will launch images of several Photo Discs corresponding to PokeStops, or the circular images that are spun when collecting resources from a PokeStop. On the lower right of these Photo Discs are Pokemon associated with the PokeStop in question, and you’ll also see some footstep icons to suggest the distance you need to walk in order to catch said Pokemon. But Mic notes that there are some problems with the Pokemon GO Nearby tracker, specifically its vagueness in terms of measuring distance.

“The Nearby tool appears to be just as arbitrary at measuring distances as the old Sightings tool,” wrote Mic.

“As a result, some of the PokeStops you see in your Nearby menu might not actually be anything close to what you would consider ‘nearby.’ Some of those PokeStops could actually represent a meaningful jaunt from your current location.”

Pokemon GO gamers have also taken to Reddit to register complaints about the new Nearby tool and how it apparently doesn’t make tracking Pokemon any easier. A Redditor with the handle SapphireSamurai was quoted by Mic as saying the tracker is even worse than Sightings ever was.

“When I’m at home I used to be able to see nine different Pokemon on my sightings list. Now I can only see what’s at the one stop that’s a 15-minute walk away. One Pidgey. Woo.”

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A separate report from Forbes acknowledged another common complaint with the new Pokemon GO Nearby tracker – it’s all well and good if you’re living in the city and have a lot of PokeStops in your area, but useless for those who live in rural areas where the PokeStops are few and far in between. But Forbes gaming writer Paul Tassi believes Niantic might not have erred in releasing an unpopular and arguably ineffective tracker, but might have instead kept monetization and sponsorships in mind when making the tracker very PokeStop-centric. He mentioned the example of McDonald’s-sponsored PokeStops, and how “endless” marketing opportunities may arise if specific Pokemon spawns are tied into the PokeStops.

“There are lots of ads that encourage you to buy things at stores or eat at restaurants, but how many actually encourage you to physically go there at that exact moment? Very few, and that’s why Pokemon GO has an incredibly unique marketing opportunity with this new tracking system.”

Sponsorships and monetization aside, Forbes‘ Tassi opined that it may be best for Niantic to keep both its new tracker and its old Sightings tool active. Those from rural areas may prefer to rely on Sightings in the usual absence of PokeStops, while those from the city may use Sightings as well, but as an alternate tracker if the PokeStop-centric Nearby tracker yields super-common Pidgeys, Rattattas, Caterpies, and the like. But for the meantime, he believes it’s a lose-lose proposition for players, with Sightings seemingly gone for the most part and the new Pokemon GO Nearby tracker getting less-than-favorable reviews.

[Featured Image by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images]