We recently debated the rights and wrongs of shutting down Pokemon GO fan-made tools like Pokévision, and it's fair to say it has become a bit of a heated topic, with many feeling that Niantic has been a bit heavy handed. Pokévision was one of the most popular fan-made apps to help track down elusive Pokémon, and as a result has been central to the debate since it went offline. Developer Yang Liu has broken his silence on the subject in an open letter to John Hanke and Niantic, which is quite a moving read.
It's well worth reading through the whole open letter to gain an understanding of Yang Liu's background and passion for all things Pokémon, but here are some parts of his letter which struck a chord with us:
You've simply captured all of our hearts with Pokemon Go, Niantic.
But then, you broke it all too quickly.
When the game broke every few hours or so and wasted our lucky eggs, we stood patiently, excusing the huge growth and thus, strain on servers, as the cause. We were happy to wait it out with our fellow trainers knowing that it's worth waiting for. No one got mad.
When the in-game tracking "broke," we all stood idly by, patiently, waiting for the game to update and fix.
Along came Pokevision. We made Pokevision not to "cheat." We made it so that we can have a temporary relief to the in-game tracker that we were told was broken. John, at SDCC, you said that you guys were working on "fixing the in-game tracker." This made everyone believe that this was coming sometime soon. We saw Pokevision as a stop gap to this — and we had every intention in closing it down the minute that Pokemon Go's own tracker restored functionality.
As we waited more than 2 and a half weeks, the tracker was still not fixed. We noticed more and more of our friends leave the game; the only way I — and I know experiences vary here — could convince them to play was show them Pokevision, and say that "Hey, here's a temporary remedy to the tracking issue — we're still optimistic that Pokemon Go's tracker will be fixed soon!"
Liu goes on to discuss the impact of closing down the in-game tracker and fan-made tools on Pokémon GO's reputation, suggesting there's a rapid decline in its userbase:
After disabling the in-game tracker and Pokevision, the ratings on iOS and Android Google Play store went from 4.0 stars to 1.0–1.5. I am only one person, I admit that my sole opinion is not important, but what about the countless players begging for the game to be restored to its former state? I may be biased in saying that Pokevision being down had an impact on the amount of negative ratings, refund requests and outcry on social media — but could it be true? Nothing has changed between the time the in-game tracker broke and Pokevision went down. Could it just be possible that the tracker — no matter if Pokevision made it, or Niantic made it, is something that players desperately NEED — not want, but NEED — in order to play the game? Could it be possible that this is the very core fundamental feature that drives most players? I understand that there are some that want to walk around and stumble on a random Pokemon — to each their own. But, 50M unique users and 11M daily and the ratings on your App (with no significant change in itself) are big indicators of this desire. Are customers always right? Especially if over half of them are looking for an outside fix just so they can enjoy something they love? People are naturally inquisitive, and in this case, they just want to play more and more, so they sought out something that helps them do so.
Do you agree with Yang Liu's take on the impact of changes which Niantic made to Pokémon GO, or do you feel he's just speaking out of self-interest? As always, be sure to share your thoughts with a comment below.