Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm. In a few weeks, the game has become the most downloaded app in the world with over 100 million hits and given the Pokémon franchise a massive boost. However, Niantic, the game's developer, has received criticism this week after removing a key aspect from the game.
Previously in the game a 3-step "nearby" display feature appeared in the game, letting players know how far or how close they were to a Pokémon. Unfortunately, many players had a glitch displaying Pokémon as always being three steps away, making it impossible for players to know how close they were to their targets. Players turned to third-party apps to figure out the distance to Pokémon. So Niantic responded, and removed the three-step display entirely.
Obviously, players haven't responded positively to this development. Fans have already accused Niantic of being uncommunicative and unresponsive to its customers. People have gone so far as giving the app negative reviews and to goad app stores into refunding them for what they paid for Pokémon Go.
Given the controversy these changes to the game have stirred up for the company, Niantic finally released a statement addressing the issue through its official Facebook page:
As many of you know, we recently made some changes to Pokémon GO. We have removed the ‘3-step’ display in order to improve upon the underlying design. The original feature, although enjoyed by many, was also confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals. We will keep you posted as we strive to improve this feature.
After giving an update on the game launching globally, they addressed their lack of communication with customers:
If you haven’t heard us Tweeting much it’s because we’ve been heads down working on the game. But we’ll do our best going forward to keep you posted on what’s going on.
It's interesting to note that by stating that the 3-step feature was removed to improve the game's underlying design, Niantic implies they may never bring the feature back. However, they've also stated they are striving to "improve the feature." So, is nearby tracking gone for good or to be replaced by a new feature?
Some think the change was due to server strain, a problem the game has encountered since it launched. It may also be a way to deter third party apps who use the feature from the game to alert players of exactly where Pokémon are.
Another theory may be that the feature led to too many people wandering into off-limits or restricted areas in their elusive search for "nearby" Pokémon. At the same time of the 3-steps removal, a new series of forced messages began popping up when booting the game, asking players to "Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings," and not to "play Pokémon Go while driving" or "enter dangerous areas while playing." The new messages require the player to hit "OK" before playing. Clearly, they are cracking down on safety, could the 3-steps feature be part of this?
At any rate, it's good the company is finally addressing the upset. They already have a very large fanbase determined to stay abreast of all new developments. Hopefully, whether they chose to reintroduce the "3-step" mechanism or replace it, they will continue to aid players in understanding how to catch all the Pokémon (or trade them!) and continue to have fun.
What did you think of Niantic's official statement? Would you like the "3-step" feature to return?