I was surprised by my own enthusiasm, as I learned to play Pokémon GO when it was released in Sweden. As I also had bad back pains at the time, so it was a true blessing to my daily rehab-walks, helping me get better by walking even more, on some days even too much!
Before to that, the walks had turned boring. You can only vary your routes so much when starting off from home.
Luckily my two eldest were pretty Pokémon savvy. Myself being an age-old gamer, especially Role-Playing games (with all their evolution rules etc), I picked the rules up and started catching and evolving.
But then, something happened, I learned about Pokevision, a web based map where you could see where Pokémons had spawned and for how long they would stay. At the time, I was still finding new Pokémons by taking different routes and going to different places at random.
Niantic then asked Pokevision to shut down service and started blocking other related services as well. My sons were getting bored by the game, as they didn't want to go out and "stumble over non-pidgeys on random for hours at end", as they expressed it. I soon discovered the same, no chance to "Catch'Em All" without travelling farther than I could walk.
Niantic released a blog entry, blaming third-party services to overload their servers and the unfairness that some (in reality probably most) players gained benefits by using them ets etc. They even published a doodled graph (hand-drawn and scanned) showing the difference in load after shutting 3rd parties out. The graph had no scale on the y-axis, leaving no hint on overall capacity.
In this day and age, scaling servers and providing increasing tolerance to load, is a commodity. We would have no Netflix without services like Amazon AWS. There would be no live TV streams from the olympics etc without the now industry-standard highly scalable cloud services.
Sure, anyone can be caught off guard by a phenomenon like Pokémon GO. Honestly, who wouldn't? But, this is where Niantic started to do things wrong:
- The community was outraged and Niantic left no response to the most common question: When will the tracker be restored / improved in the mobile app. And there is still no news on that.
- For more than 10 days, they only tweet addressing active players was "Which starter Pokémon did you choose in Pokemon GO?", further annoying players who now had all the common an semi-rare little critters, but caught nothing new.
- A gameplay-impeding bug emerged, the Pokémons started to escape for no reason, causing players to waste Pokéballs en masse. Some were even filing refund requests on in-app purchases, claiming the bug caused balls to go to waste. The nice, great and excellent bonuses upon catching a Pokémon, had also disappeared.
- An app update came, restoring the bonus, but now the "Nearby" feature had changed to "Sightings", where no clue of the distance to a Pokémon was revealed. The community was again outraged.. and met with complete silence.
- 8-10 days later, some players started tweeting about their fear of battling in gyms. The reason? Uncalled-for reports and accusations of cheating, some even reported their accounts had being terminated and receiving a mail from Niantic, containing a link to an Appeal Form. Some even published screenshots of their top Pokémons, claiming they had been caught/evolved fair and square. Niantic did not give anyone a specific reason for the ban.
- Now, even days later, a new blog entry from Niantic was finally posted, stating they had started terminating accounts which "their system had determined" being used when cheating.
And so, here we are, Niantic prioritizing hunting down alleged cheaters (more than a few of them reported by jealous competitors and many of those now waiting for a response to their appeal). Negativity instead of fixing the tracker and close to complete silence in social media. Personally, I've noticed a slight increase in the Pokémon escape rate as well.
We don't play Pokémon GO in my family anymore. We're not the only ones having abandoned it after a couple of weeks of true joy and anticipation. I guess there's been too much of a blame game on Niantic's part. Too many impeding bugs and quite frankly, as it is now, the game is boring. Who knows, maybe we'll start again, once it's worthwhile spending time tracking and catching those illusive Dratinis etc again.