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Pokémon GO has been enduring its most sustained negative backlash to date this week, at least in online forums and social media. The latest update removed the three-step radar feature that barely functioned, and at the same time multiple popular third-party apps were taken down. One of these, Pokévision, got a lot of attention and its creator shared an open letter critical of the Niantic's move to cut it off from the app's servers and data.

Undoubtedly stung by the criticism, Niantic CEO John Hanke has posted a lengthy message explaining the decision, producing a graphic to reinforce the point that closing off external access to the app's servers improves performance and the company's ability to roll-out to more countries. He also states that time spent dealing with third-party apps detracts from the game's development. The full message is below.


Things have been pretty crazy here at Niantic over the last few weeks but despite all of the ups and downs we get up every day inspired by the original goals of Niantic – to create an experience that encourages healthy outdoor exploration and social gameplay. Every positive story we hear (like this one from the UK) motivates us to keep working to support the game and continue the roll-out. Running a product like Pokémon GO at scale is challenging. Those challenges have been amplified by third parties attempting to access our servers in various ways outside of the game itself.

As some of you may have noticed we recently rolled out Pokémon GO to Latin America including Brazil. We were very excited to finally be able to take this step. We were delayed in doing that due to aggressive efforts by third parties to access our servers outside of the Pokémon GO game client and our terms of service. We blocked some more of those attempts yesterday. Since there has been some public discussion about this, we wanted to shed some more light on why we did this and why these seemingly innocuous sites and apps actually hurt our ability to deliver the game to new and existing players. The chart below shows the drop in server resources consumed when we blocked scrapers. Freeing those resources allowed us to proceed with the Latin America launch.

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In addition to hampering our ability to bring Pokémon GO to new markets, dealing with this issue also has opportunity cost. Developers have to spend time controlling this problem vs. building new features. It's worth noting that some of the tools used to access servers to scrape data have also served as platforms for bots and cheating which negatively impact all Trainers. There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but the negative impact on game resources is the same.

Of course, there are also outright hackers out there attempting to break into systems, hijack social media accounts, and even bring down the service. Some of them have posted publicly about their attempts.

We don't expect these attempts to stop. But we do want you to understand why we have taken the steps we have and why we will continue to take steps to maintain the stability and integrity of the game.

We value feedback from our community. We have heard feedback about the Nearby feature in the game and are actively working on it. Over the past three and half years many of us in the company have traveled throughout the country and, in fact, around the world to meet, play, and learn from our Ingress user community. And we look forward to doing the same with the Pokémon GO community. Please keep your game ideas and feedback coming. We look forward to getting the game on stable footing so we can begin to work on new features.

Above all, be safe, be nice to your fellow Trainers, and keep on exploring.


We suspect that, for some, there is little that Niantic can do to appease complaints around this, aside from opening up its servers to third-party apps again. Part of the conflict arises from the fact that some third-party sites and apps were delivering services people want in the main game - such as the ability to track Pokémon more effectively. It's a topic we considered in an editorial earlier this week.

In any case, let us know what you think of Niantic's message in the comments.

Thanks to all that sent this in.

[via pokemongo.nianticlabs.com]