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.
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.
Niantic did some communication! That's headlines news in itself.
This post is great because it finally shows us the reason for the shut down of third party trackers and tangible evidence of the reason to do so. But this reasoning really should have been communicated much earlier - if they were ahead of the story and transparent with their audience from word go, rather than being silent for days before releasing a fairly vague statement, and being silent again until this new post; the huge backlash would have been much less severe. I hope that's a lesson learned for Niantic, and it's nice to see this notoriously tight lipped company finally open up a little. More of this, please.
In other news, Niantic are currently claiming that the lowered catch rates, increased flee rates, and lack of exp bonus for Nice/Great/Excellent captures is a bug. Honestly, I'm a little suspect on that, I'm more inclined to believe they did it intentionally but didn't expect the backlash, but it's good to see that they seem to be intending to reverse it anyway.
@Raylax Here's the thing with game development, or programming in general: fix one thing and something else breaks. That's just how it is and often times the reason is purely random and unexpected. Part of the fun.
And I'll beat SOMEONE to the punch because this is Negative LIFE and say "That data is fake nyeeeeh".
I love being blunt @rjejr
@BLPs Oh yeah, absolutely, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that the lowered rates are a bug, but it certainly seems a little suspect. There's another bug right now that means captured Pokémon sometimes transform into other species at the point of capture (reported in places as "rare Pokémon transforming into common Pokémon", which is bending the truth a little), so yeah there's definitely precedent for this to just be another thing that's popped up in the game of QA Whack-A-Mole, but I gotta admit the cynic in me raised an eyebrow haha
People want GO out in their country, the tracking system to work, the security to be tighter against cheater, the servers to work better for everyone and that the game will get updates and new features asap (Did I forget something? I bet I did!)
Honestly I don't dare to say Niantic is doing the best job ever or anything, but I can totally see why it's not being easy, if it wasn't for the huge success they are having I would even feel bad for them XD
Why doesn't the graph have any measurements/values on it?
@Raylax I think it only seems suspect due to the timing. Thing is, they probably intend to adjust catch rates and things anyway. Didn't hear about the transforming ones though...that's weird.
I love QA Bingo. Its like Ubisoft at E3 bingo, only far less predictable.
@-Red- How would you measure server access? Yes, in a statistical sense it means the graph shows nothing, but here's the thing, look how many people are using this game. Look at the fact the graph says per second, now imagine how insanely high that number is.
What a time to be alive. Not only that, but they also did several changes to their API, shooting some bots/scripts down! Wow, Niantic can acutally be competent at their job, can you belive that!
But ok, jokes and irony aside, I'm glad they finally started doing some proper security and API fixes. A whole month late, but better late than never.
@BLPs I'm not sure. I just felt that it was a bit odd they would post a graph with no measurements to go by. Unless I'm missing something, couldn't the graph be used to represent just about any value then?
@-Red- If you assume the Y-axis starts at zero then the absolute numbers are irrelevant - it's dropped by about two thirds. Alternatively, if you assume the graph is doctored or fabricated then absolute numbers are still irrelevant because it's all a lie
@-Red- It could, however I'm an ass and I want to pose this.
You've heard the countless amounts of stories of stupid people playing this game. Leaving kids alone and unsupervised, walking off a cliff, etc. etc. I imagine it's to not show a number their tiny brains cant comprehend.
Seriously, Pokémon GO in my eyes, is a nice extension of Darwinism. They aren't idiots, its just natural selection at this point. :/
@BLPs Yeah, before Niantic stated the capture changes were a bug, many were assuming it was an intentional change to make captures harder, thereby forcing trainers to burn through Pokéballs much faster and need to purchase more from the store.
Again though, it's ultimately a communication thing. You of course can't warn people of bugs before you're aware of them yourself, but people were shouting about this one a day or two after the patch and Niantic remained silent on the matter until... yesterday I think? Two days ago at most. It probably is a bug but they let people believe it wasn't for far too long haha. Again, hoping Niantic has got on top of its comms now. I love playing Pokémon Go and I'd hate to see it sink just because of poor communication.
@Raylax Yeah communication is a biggie. Its why I'm trying to either improve my marketing and interpersonal skills, or get someone who can to help with game development. Its a problem many programmers face, that outside world XD
@BensonUii It kind of works. Unfortunately new Pokémon spawning nearby can make what you're tracking fall down the list, giving the false impression you're moving away from it. Also, when the Pokémon despawns it can take a good 5 minutes for that to be reflected in the nearby list unless you regularly restart the app to force it to update.
@chardir That's a good point actually.
@BLPs Eh, there's always careless and irresponsible people out there.
@-Red- Theres always stupid people but I had faith there wasn't this many XD
@BensonUii It still "works" but its much less user friendly and twice as difficult to find a nearby pokemon. The problem is that instead of working to improve their own game and tracking, they completely removed the 3 steps while also shutting down 3rd parties like pokevision. Which is fine since they dont want people "cheating" but they have made tracking much less accurate and less accessible. Causes more frustration than fun.
@BensonUii Ah, good to know, wasn't aware of that!
I'd rather just get the same "we're working on it" and it "gave users and unfair advantage." I mean what do consumers care that they are cheap and don't want to pay for server space on a popular game? And while it's obvious that these apps use server capacity, they haven't really proven how much. From the number of negative articles and comments from players on here, it seems the dip very well could be due to consumers that have been turned off by the change and aren't using the app any longer or at least not as much.
In other obvious news, the sky is blue. It was known already that Pokevision was a tremendous server strain.
But people just want a conspiracy and need to have things spelled out in big letters, sadly they aren't limited to Trump followers.
The cynic in me believes that they're not really in a rush to fix the tracking. Maybe they don't mind losing over 50% of the player base since they'll still turn a healthy profit with what remains. I feel Nintendo made a big mistake turning their IP over to an incompetent company that clearly can't handle such a massive project.
I can get behind this now that I know the reason! Communication is important
"....There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but.."
I stopped reading as soon as I encounter the word blatant.
I think it's an intentional change in the game to make it more difficult. I think they look at the game as a minecraft type evergreen game. And I think they worried if it's too easy people will leave the game instead of staying invested in it. So they made it alot harder to get the good stuff knowing some people will leave in the short term, but hoping they could make it a more rewarding long term game.
I respect them for giving an explanation that they didn't have to. Any other time data mining is used to give players any knowledge outside of intended usage it is labled as cheating and that is the end of that. They were willing to say why it's cheating just to appease the whining folks.
Weird that there is no figures at all on the right side of that graph.
The catching thing seems to be an obvious bug though, as it's extremely random when it happens.
First Three days this week I saw no difference in catching difficulty, until yesterday afternoon, when I had even common CP10 Pokemon constantly escaping out of the Pokeball and fleeing.
This morning.... back to Normal again without a single Escape and catching everything With just 1-3 pokeballs.
If it wasn't a bug, but intentional then it would be more consistent.
But it can also be the RNG toying with us.
But consumers only care about features in a game, not a companies IS resources. I still think it sucked they didn't fix their internal tracking before stopping external tracking.
I mean, let's say for example that Mario NX is going to have an online multiplayer component. Then at the last minute it's pulled and Nintendo says it's because online multiplayer games use 1000% the server resources of single player games. Would people say, "Oh, I'm so glad they removed those features because it utilizes too much server space."? Or would people say, "That sucks, I was really looking forward to that awesome feature."?
Plus, a few things happened at once. Their own tracking feature was removed, the app's popularity dropped, and external tracking was removed. So how much of the drop is related to each factor?
@BensonUii If it didn't work, i don't see why they don't try to fix it. I'm hoping as more updates come out, they'll try to continue improving itself. Since its based off catching pokemon in the world, having a way to track easily is essential and getting closer to each pokemon feels very rewarding for when you finally catch the bugger. If they communicated better and explained what they were focusing on it wouldve helped a lot. I remember they called it confusing when its just niantic not communicating and confusing fans.
But server issues existed day 1 before 3rd party apps existed. There are many things the could have on should have done on the server side that would alleviate your issues. Many popular apps have third party apps that tag onto them so it's not like this is an isolated issue for Pokemon Go that absolves them from responsibility with their server issues.
@maceng do explain what isn't blatant about the commercialism in the leagues of apps charging on the Play Store for services linking to (or claiming to link to) Pokemon Go's services.
Niantic have all the millions they need to up their game, their servers and to employ more people to put out the updates they are promising faster but they absolutely should not pander to those piggybacking on their success, utilising their licenced IP to make money.
If they say it gives some users an unfair advantage, then fine.
But using server capacity to nerf features doesn't make sense to me. It could very well be that their ingame tracking was broken/removed because it used just as much server capacity to get working right. Would you as a consumer say I hope they never get tracking so I can log into their game. Or would you say I hope they update their servers so tracking (a feature of the game originally) works.
I agree that Niantic should have been a little more forthcoming with information. However, there is a possibility they have been trying to wrap their heads around what is going on.
No one had any idea how popular this game was going to be. There was no way to test for this. The only game that comes close to this type of game is Ingress, and it pales in comparison to GO.
Caught my 2nd Snorlax while reading this article at my desk!
It was probably those damn data-mining sites like PokéVision that broke the footsteps indicator anyway if the servers were getting flooded by so many requests. Now if these 3rd party developers at least waited until it's full global release and a few stability updates first (instead of causing untold delays on the rollout and extra work for the dev team) then they might've got away with running them, but human nature and greed wanted it all right now and sod anyone else. This is what I suspected was happening all along and decided not break PKMN GO's ToS by using 3rd party apps and play by the rules. Hope that they get back on track soon.
What I don't understand is how some random guy can use Niantic's data to accurately show where Pokemon are spawning, but Niantic themselves can't use that same data to accurately represent POkemon's distance and spawn locations in-game.
That said, I honestly don't get all the hubbub. I never used Pokevision, but I also don't use the tracker system in-game. I just go out, on regular walks, and catch whatever POkemon show up. I sometimes go to areas that have a lot of Pokestops, but that's for the Pokestops and the stuff they give me. Plus, more POkemon appear in those areas. It's just way more fun when you don't get hung up over what Pokemon you can catch - keep hatching eggs, and catching duplicates is a major part of the game. No matter what you're catching, it's helping you in some way. I don't get the anger. Is POkemon GO a great game, an emblem of great programming and game design? Ha! Nope. But it's pretty darn fun catching Pokemon in the real world. People need to take a step, calm down, and recapture the fun of games and Pokemon, rather than be all obsessive over specific Pokemon and finding them. Just go for the journey, and enjoy every catch you make.
Nice to see they gave an explanation on why there closing third party apps
Show the data on how gen 1 is the best! Oh wait this app is proof enough! We win baby!
I'm stunned at how fast they are moving, honestly. Some of you need to get a reality check with the zero appreciation for the massive effort this takes. No game developer has had something this societally disruptive ever as far as I can recall. Actually while Niantic should continue to be transparent, it should not react too quickly to the whiny minority. QA testing takes time and if they release too fast they will get in that fixed-this-broke-that cycle.
Where are all the pokemon GO fans deriding the scrapers for ruining their server access for those first couple of weeks?
Oh man, the entitlement outrage that this game has generated.
@cleveland124 That Mario Kart analogy does not work, because in it you're removing one of the main features of the game, as if Niantic had removed pokemon battles, for example.
A better Mario Kart analogy would be if Mario Kart TV was an external app, and Nintendo shut it down because it ate into the online multiplayer resources.
@aaronsullivan Yours is truly the voice of reason. Really, as an API/ backend developer, I have nothing but respect for what Niantic is doing; I can't even fathom the unique problems they must finding every single day with such a heavy world wide usage and attention.
And yet, you can find youtubers posting stuff like "How Niantic is ruinning Pokemon GO" and things like that. It's really sad.
Being able to track on a tracking game seems pretty important to me. But I'm not here to try and convince you that.
@TadpoleSHero "What I don't understand is how some random guy can use Niantic's data to accurately show where Pokemon are spawning, but Niantic themselves can't use that same data to accurately represent POkemon's distance and spawn locations in-game."
My guess is because that random guy only has one problem to solve (locate pokemon using an existing API) vs Niantic has that and many more, including keeping said API working correctly for everyone.
@cleveland124 To be fair, I thought you were referring to the blocking of third-party apps and not the tracking, so it's my mistake, apologies for that.
Irony is with all the controversy surrounding the tracker apps and sites, the negative Nancies and conspiracy nuts don't seem to realize Pokémon Go haven't had issues with the servers going down like it once did, even on the days it's released in other countries. Figured that should count for something.
I can only imagine the long hours they have to put in just to make everything work as fast as possible with so many bugs, users/bots, pressure from fans, social media attention, political input, etc. It must be chaos on their end.
Wait, the graph has units on both axes now? Good, the original was just the line.
Here's one issue, though: during that same update, the app cut the number of times the app checks for Pokémon locations in half, meaning at least a good chunk of that drop isn't related to the third-party apps.
But this is still irreparable damage that cost them millions of users!
Appeasing complaints shouldn't be on the bucket list at all. The audience can vote with their wallets (or, in this case, downloads and activity), but we have a weird case where player base decrease would actually unload the servers and/or make things easier for other curious folks to try the game. And curious folks there will be - it's a rare game that causes enough ripples to feature in TV news more than once a week, and the publicity is there.
Honestly, I understand the context and reasoning of folks like PokeVision creator and all, but that people find a developer canning any attempts to access the app and influence the gameplay from outside SO DESPICABLE is a sight as surreal as it is sore. Or is there an officially greenlit fanmade patchtool/trainer/editor for any other game or app with issues that I have yet to know of? Let alone enough of them to be a trend Niantic has gone against? One word: fans...
@nab1 "How Niantic made Pokemon GO" is a boring topic for them already, I guess. Sic transit gloria mundi...
@MetaRyan With all due respect, if you need numbers to understand a graph like this, then you do not have the required knowledge to "read" it properly.
I highly doubt that, if the update did indeed reduce the number of location queries the app performs, that if would have any significance on this graph's trend. There's a very steep slope in a matter of minutes, maybe even seconds. Unless every single player updated their app at almost that exact same time, the slope wouldn't be so steep so suddenly.
@cleveland124 considering that massive dip in server usage was within the space from an hour, I highly doubt the dip is due to people not playing. I hear a lot of big talk online about people 'never playing again' but I still see the same number of people wandering my city in the middle of the night, hunting down Pokemon and hatching eggs. Talk is cheap, especially on the Internet.
Anyway, for my take on this article. Niantic's communication, while a bit late, is perfect. They transparently explained why they did what they did, showed some data (and yes, there are no values on the graph, but as someone explained, assume the Y-axis is zero and you see that server usage dropped by 2/3 which is massive), and biggest yet, they confirmed that they're working on the Nearby System, which means it WILL be coming back soon. That's something I very much appreciate as a consumer and a user. The future for his game was looking bleak for a little bit there, but I have renewed hope.
Thank you, Niantic.
@BLPs I like Negative LIFE. Think I'll spend more time shopping at Refinery29.
It's too long!! ..but then they have a point and well besides I just found out that me device isn't compatible with pokemon go =/
@rjejr My fiance is coming back down in two weeks or so, I shall shop also
@BLPs Did you read about the $25 FFXV season pass? I think the industry is trying to get me to quit gaming. Being in Gamestop this afternoon was actually depressing me. Though that might have been due in part to just getting out of the orthodontist and we need to spend $3,000 on my kids braces. $500 just today. That was my PS4 money.
A 3 hour window can't possibly prove anything. The large drop happens almost entirely at 1 PM during a workday. It's possible that same drop happens everyday as people hunt during their lunch break and then go back to work. It's also possible that when the update went live, it kicked a number of people out who simply went about their day and didn't immediately log back in. It's possible the app now has stability because they've added additional servers with the update. They don't really give us any information to prove anything.
Plus as others have pointed out there is no numbres on the axis. Its likely a broken graph where the bottom is not equal to zero. If we learned the bottom of the graph was say 15,000 queries/second and the top was 16,000 queries/second and the change was 2-3% would you think that proves their point or would you think this graph is misleading?
I feel you on both accounts. Due to the massive clearance of the original xbone to sell the s, I actually picked one up. Forza 6 ultimate is $99 and doesn't include the $20 Porsche or Nascar add-ons. It's insane, to fully experience that game would cost as much as I have in my xbone. And my wife and I recently had surgery and our bills have arrived.
@cleveland124 I hate when bills arrive. Hope your surgery went well.
Well that makes sense. Not that owe anyone an explanation as such, but this is good insight. Support apps like that might actually hog a lot of bandwith.
@Raylax they denied 3rd party the API access.
@nhSnork "Or is there an officially greenlit fanmade patchtool/trainer/editor for any other game or app with issues that I have yet to know of?"
@bngrybt point taken, thanks.
Tbh at least since all the stuff got blocked I can actually use the app now. Before literally once about 4.30pm hit I could never get on. I even had to switch from my trainer club account to a Google account because of not being able to play. Since the update I haven't had a problem lol so IMO that shows that it was affecting the servers anyway.
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