How Pokémon Go Came…and Went

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When the first Pokémon video game premiered in the US, it was an almost-instant commercial hit. Its whimsical graphics, familiar JRPG-styled setting, and easy rock-paper-scissors battling mechanic got an entire generation of gamers hooked on catching 'em all. More importantly, the original Pokémon games had staying power, successfully transitioning through several gaming platforms and expansions over the years. It's a safe bet to say, without exaggeration, that an entire generation grew up with their favorite Pokémon.

Pokémon Go, on the other hand, seemed to have burned brightly, but burnt out quickly. Almost immediately after starting up the game, enthusiastic fans were stonewalled from actually playing the game due to frequent server crashes and game freezes. On the off-chance they actually did get to play, longtime fans of the series were realizing that Pokémon Go wasn't the game they were expecting, with key features such as battling and trading with other players missing entirely, while others were just plain broken. Less than a month after its release, fans waking up from the initial haze of Pokémon fever began to find their fire turning to ire.

The problems with the game are numerous, and many seem to stem from how developer Niantic had been handling certain issues with the game. Here are a few reasons why more than a few die-hard Pokémon trainers have hung up their pokéball bandoliers for good.

The Pokémon Tracker's “Three-Step Bug”

pokemon go - three step bug

When Pokémon Go premiered in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, the game launched with a feature that allowed players to track nearby Pokémon, appropriately named the Pokémon Tracker. There was still a bit of guesswork involved, and the interface was a little confusing, but for the most part, the Pokémon Tracker accomplished its intended goal: it let you know which Pokémon were near your present GPS coordinates.

Depending on how nearby a Pokémon was to you, it would be marked by the tracker with “one step” (very near), up to “three steps” (farther away, but still in your vicinity). It might've been clunky and deliberately imprecise, but it was the only tool players had to locate Pokémon they hadn't already captured. Once you got used to it, the Tracker actually resulted in a lot of enjoyable moments of scavenger-hunt gameplay.

The bad news is that at some point, this feature stopped working. Every Pokémon showing up in the Tracker were listed as “three steps”, rendering the feature essentially useless as it no longer told you if you were getting closer or farther away from that elusive Arkanine.

In August, a 'testing version' of a Nearby & Sightings scene was patched into the game, allowing for an even more rudimentary method of tracking down elusive Pokémon. But for frustrated fans, especially who'd already stopped playing, this change comes a little too late.

Pokévision Surely Must've Seen This Coming

pokemon go - pokevision

In response to the breaking of one of the game's most attractive and essential features, a website called Pokévision emerged to address the blind-scavenger hunt issue. Pokévision was basically Google Maps, with the GPS coordinates of Pokémon overlaid on top of real-world locales. The trouble was, Pokévision worked by data mining (in simpler terms, hacking) the game servers in order to display up-to-date locations for all catchable Pokémon.

Data mining the game servers are expressly forbidden in Pokémon Go's terms of service, so Niantic wasted no time in getting the site shut down. In spite of Niantic being in full legal rights to do so, the shutdown caused a surge of public outcry from players, especially since the developer has thus far given no indication of being able to fix the actual in-game tracker. Frustrated and in full-bore nerd rage mode, Pokémon trainers took to social media en masse to complain about the developer's mounting unpopularity.

Haters gonna hate, as they are wont to do, but when gamers hate, they hate loudly. Niantic has since made a blog post explaining that data mining was causing a significant drain on their servers and preventing Pokémon from being launched in other countries, so while players had to resign themselves to “taking one for the team,” no one said they had to be happy about it. And, apparently, many weren't.

There are supposed to be some Pokévision alternatives, but we can’t guarantee how accurate they are!

The Little Patch That Wasn't

In the midst of player frustrations about the broken tracker and Pokévision's all-too-swift demise, word started getting out that Niantic was releasing a patch for their game. Players were immediately optimistic because make no mistake: people still liked Pokémon Go, and wanted to keep liking Pokémon Go. But as it turned out, the patch was a huge disappointment, containing only minor cosmetic changes, while failing to address the many outstanding bugs still plaguing the game. Players were still encountering terrible, game-breaking freezes after making an important capture and inaccurate GPS readings, to name a few.

pokemon go - little patch that wasnt

Perhaps the most damning issue that players had with the patch was that instead of fixing the Three-Step Bug, the patch simply removed the tracking feature altogether. For players (okay, well, at least, me), this was tantamount to Niantic saying, “Hey, kids, we heard you like playing scavenger hunts. But have you ever gone on a scavenger hunt while blindfolded? Here, have some blindfolds, on us. And remember: look both ways before crossing the street. Ha! That was a joke. Kinda.”

As a final nail in the coffin, players began speculating that the string of minor updates was pushed out for the purpose of wiping out the recent surge of one-star ratings frustrated players have posted on Pokémon Go's store page. App stores tend to only display the ratings given to the most recent version of the app, so by pushing out a new patch, no matter how minor, Niantic is able to wipe the review slate clean.

By this point, players took to Reddit by storm with stories about how they were asking for refunds of their in-app purchases made in Pokémon Go. In the world of digital entertainment, voting with your dollar is pretty much the most powerful bargaining chip consumers have, and in the case of Pokémon Go, voter turnout was staggering.

No Pokémon Go for You, Sick Kids

pokemon go - sick kids

When Pokémon Go made its global launch, not everyone was quick to embrace the fact that droves of people were rummaging around their neighborhoods in search of imaginary monsters. Numerous complaints were posted about how some places just weren't suitable locations for Pokéstops or places for Pokémon to appear, such as war memorials, former Nazi concentration camps, the Holocaust Museum, and private residences.

Niantic had promised a review of its Pokéstop locations and recently brought about its first big wave of Pokéstop closures. As fans have noted on Reddit, these closures went unannounced but involved the shutdown of many Pokéstop locations, including hospitals.

The trouble was, when Niantic decided on the wholesale removal of Pokéstops in hospitals, they'd also closed Pokéstops that had been in children's hospitals. All this was done without the consent of each location. So many kids with major illnesses and other health conditions that made them unable to leave the hospital booted up their game one day, only to find that their only gym or Pokéstop had been shut down with no warning.

Pokéstops are one thing, but gyms are places where players invest a lot of time (and more than likely, money) into building and defending from rival players. All that effort on the part of sick kids? Vanished without a trace. The resulting PR nightmare that Niantic had to endure must've been a sight to behold.

The "Bug" That Made Pokémon Harder to Catch

pokemon go - harder to catch

Players were quick to notice that one recent game update appeared to make Pokémon significantly harder to capture. It's tough not to figure something fishy was up when even Magikarp – described in-game as being completely useless -- were swatting aside your perfectly-thrown Pokéballs with impunity.

Niantic confirmed that they were aware of the bug, and... you know, that was it. No assurances that it will be fixed. At this, players were quick to jump on the bandwagon of hate (the trollwagon, if you will), speculating that the 'bug' that made Pokémon harder to capture wasn't a bug at all, but a deliberate adjustment to game mechanics. When Pokémon are more difficult to capture, that doesn't break the game in strict terms; what it does, however, is lead players to buying more Pokéballs, meaning more in-app purchases, meaning more money in Niantic's pockets.

The fact that such speculation arose among fans shows just how much Niantic had lost the trust of its once passionate players.

Final Thoughts

It might've been the darling of the online gaming world, but a month later and Pokémon Go has seen a massive decline in downloads, active users, and time spent playing each day. According to research conducted by Axiom Capital Management (via Bloomberg), the game has lost a whopping 15 million active players within a month after its release.

Are you still playing Pokémon Go?

(Last Updated On: September 5, 2016)
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