Posted by Jay Ricciardi @JayRicciardi
Senior Editor of Now Loading. I like good games, good beer, and long walks up treacherous mountains shrouded in sinister, whispering fog.
Jay Ricciardi

It's no surprise that Pokémon GO is the biggest and fastest-growing game app in ages - with 50mil downloads in the first 19 days. And, well, it has some growing pains.

Even though the pure joy of finding that rare Pikachu or Dratini isn't going to lose it's luster any time soon, there are still a host of problems that Pokémon GO players have been complaining about. Here are the biggest issues currently facing Pokémon GO and our crack-pot theories on how to fix them.

Keep in mind a few things: I'm not a developer, these are certainly not the ONLY solutions, and Niantic is probably already working on their own solutions to all these known player complaints. Niantic might not seem to be communicating, but I'd bet my left shoe that they're absolutely listening to their players' pain points.

1. The broken Pokémon tracking system

Source: Redditor u/themightyseer
Source: Redditor u/themightyseer

The problem: The 3-step Poké-radar feature has been plagued with issues since launch and everyone knows it. You know it, I know it, Niantic definitely knows it. There have even been great third party sites, like the now-defunct Pokévision, that tried to offer work-around solutions to the tracker's issues. Currently, there are still some fan-made wikis hard at work, like The Silph Road's Global Nest Atlas Initiative.

The solution: We're getting this one out of the way first because, fortunately, Niantic has been clear that a proper tracking feature will return to Pokémon GO as soon as it is ready to ship! Will this new iteration be another 3-step tracking system? We're currently unsure, but some fans have spun up a pretty excellent compass version of the tracker that we'd love to see.

2. Gym and PokéStop struggles for rural trainers

The problem: Rural Pokémon GO players have gotten a bit of a short stick on PokéStops and Gyms compared to their city-dwelling counterparts. Where a rural player might have access to only a handful of locations in a 10 mile radius, city players would have hundreds of spots in the same radius.

See, locations for PokéStops and Gyms in Pokémon GO are pretty much directly taken from Niantic's previous AR game, Ingress. The very cool conceit of Ingress and Pokémon GO is that the hubs are historical locations, memorials, parks, famous buildings, public art, and other kinds of cultural artifacts. Unfortunately, rural areas have a severe lack of these cultural locations. There's not enough for rural players to do.

The solution: Niantic has tried having an "Add PokéStop/Gym" request survey to remedy this, but it has since been taken down. I'd suggest a daily quest system that incentivizes rural users to get up and move around - this system would have five pillars:

  • First of all, let's utilize Professor Willow and the Team Leaders - these characters can provide the quests.
  • Second, these quests should add an element that requires walking quotas - just like eggs do. Let's still get people moving and adventuring!
  • Third, if there are no stops or gyms, then the game could interpret that as an unknown location and players could answer Willow and the Team Leaders' questions about the area to help fill out their in-game atlas and find Pokémon fossils.
  • Fourth, rewards for these quests should be just as rewarding as visiting PokéStops.
  • Finally, these quests should be exclusive to rural areas to incentivize city players to get out of cities and into the actual wild.

In theory, giving rural players more stuff (and interesting stuff) to do will help alleviate their frustrations AND offer new gameplay options for city Pokémon GO players to get out into nature and be rewarded. Because, really, it's very strange that exploring the wilderness gives rewards in the core Pokémon games but not in GO.

3. Too many Pokéballs to catch Pokémon at higher levels

UPDATE: This is a known bug, Niantic is addressing this issue.

The problem: When you were level 5 and saw a CP 30 Rattata run by, you could snag it with one Pokéball, easy peasy. Now that you're level 25, that same Rattata will put up much, much more of a fight; it'll probably bust out of a few balls and it might even just run away. This has left many higher-level players very frustrated that they just end up wasting tons of Pokéballs on weak Pokémon as they grind for candies.

The solution: Well, this one seems like a no-brainer. If you run into a much lower CP Pokémon, it should be easy to catch if you're at a high level; at the very least, it shouldn't be harder to catch than it was at level 5!

4. Swapping between Pokéballs & Razz Berries

The problem: Digging through your bag for Razz Berries and different Pokéballs takes time, especially when you've found a rare Pokémon that you don't want to run away just because you waste time in your bags.

The solution: This on is pretty easy - we could just have buttons on one side of the screen for each Pokéball type and Razz Berries. There don't seem to enough items to make adding a bag necessary.

5. Batch Pokémon transferring

The problem: After a long day or night of catching Pokémon and stocking up on a few dozen Pidgeys, players get frustrated by the time spent clicking on and individually transferring a huge number of Pokémon to Professor Willow. This is the sort of thing that is just plain frustrating and time consuming.

Sadly, free-to-play games like Pokémon GO actually are often designed to force players to do things that keep them in-app as long as possible. The more time spent in-app, the more likely you are to spend real money.

The solution: Let's get a way to mark a bunch of Pokémon that we own all at once and then transfer them with the click of one button. This could work exactly the same way that marking a ton of images in your phone's photo folder works: check the ones you want, then hit delete.

If Niantic is concerned that this option would lower the amount of time spent in-app, then they could always offer batch transfers as another item! I'd gladly spend a dollar to transfer 100 Pokémon in one click (as opposed to 100 clicks and 100 more "clicks" from scrolling.

6. Those poor, poor servers

The problem: Pokémon GO's servers are often, very often experiencing instability issues and glitches.

The solution: Whatever Niantic has been doing lately, it's been working. The app has become better optimized and much more stable over the past few weeks as Niantic's team of Water types have been hard at work to put out fires and shooing Caterpies out of the server rooms. Keep up the good fight!

7. Final tier evolutions aren't worth the effort

The problem: Right now, a third tier evolution will take 100 candies - and it will only reward the player with the same amount of XP as evolving a second tier Pokémon. Why bother? Similarly, transferring a second or third tier evolution will grant the same amount of candies as a tier one. Geodude, Graveler, and Golem are essentially equal, even though Golem takes a LOT more effort to evolve.

The easiest way to gain XP right now with evolutions is to just grind Pidgeys to evolve with 12 candies and not even try to evolve all the way to Pidgeots.

The solution: The amount of candies you get for transferring Pokémon should depend on the stage of evolution of that Pokémon AND evolving to a third evolution should net the trainer much more XP than evolving to a second evolution. Otherwise, people will just grind Pidgeys and Caterpies for the cheap evolutions and not even experience the upper tier Pokémon.

8. Clean up "GPS spoofing" and ban cheaters

The problem: Not many people know about this one in the west, but Asian countries are currently plagued with GPS spoofing. Not sure what that is? GPS spoofing is where you use a third party app or hack to trick another app into thinking you're GPS location is different than it actually is.

People will use these hacks to sit on their couches and train (often with bots doing all the work) to level 40 with next to no effort. One Redditor living outside of Hong Kong detailed how demoralizing seeing these cheaters can be:

I live in a very remote area, a small village (as in less than 60 people) on one of the islands around HK. Not far away from my house there is this gym. The funny part is, it is located in an area where you get no mobile reception at all, let alone wi-fi. I know, I have tried on several mobile networks and with friends.
Yet the gym is level 7 for days and filled with 3000+ dragonites of lvl 33-35 trainers (go get level 35 in 8 days without cheating).
When I go to town, the ferry goes close to a lighthouse surrounded by the sea that also hosts a gym. It is not accessible by foot and most boats can't get in range of the gym due to rocks. Yet that gym too, is regularly filled with very high level Pokemon and subject to constant battles.

The solution: We're gunna need a bigger ban hammer. This is a hard nut to crack without going to extremes, but the general consensus is that all Pokémon GO accounts should be tied to the users' phone numbers, with one account per number. Right now, accounts are tied to email accounts, which can be made and discarded with little consequence.

Tying accounts to cell numbers should help decrease the number of people using GPS spoofing by making it harder to make a new account once they get banned for spoofing.

A more extreme measure would be to also tie accounts to the phones themselves. If a phone is used for cheating, it could be blacklisted by Niantic servers. Of course, this would create the need for an "account transfer" option for users who get new phones or buy used phones that have been blacklisted. We probably wouldn't see something this extreme!

9. Incentives for high level players

The problem: Players who get to the highest levels and actually manage to catch them all don't have all that much to look forward to at the moment. In MMORPG terms, there's not much of an "endgame" in Pokémon GO. You adventure, you catch Pokémon, you fill out your Pokédex, you get the best IV and CP team, and you dominate the Gyms... and then you're kind of done. What keeps those players playing? Those people who put so much time into the game, what's keeping them around?

Right now, there's just not much to do once you "beat" Pokémon GO.

The solution: First, here's a big caveat, Niantic has mentioned that Pokémon GO isn't nearly complete. At the time of writing this, there are still countries that the games hasn't even rolled out to. We know that the future will bring in the Pokémon GO Plus wearable, more generations of Pokémon, trading, and breeding among other things.

People who have raced to "endgame" are in a distinct minority, as most players are still trudging through levels 10-20 and likely are far from maxing out their Pokédex.

That said, here are some quick ideas:

  • Special event legendary Pokémon. Events already happen for the 3DS Pokémon games all across the globe.
  • Achievements that give in-game titles. Take a page from World of Warcraft and let players earn titles like "Bug Catcher" that they can display next to their names at Gyms.
  • Implement ways to obtain shiny Pokémon that are mostly only accessible to high level players and/or via achievements.
  • Allow achievements in Pokémon GO to give bonuses to player's 3DS Pokémon games.

In theory, all Pokémon GO needs to do is take notes from the Nintendo's core Pokémon games and copy the existing events. Then, Niantic can just make achievements feel important and impactful to motivate users to pursue them even after hitting max level and catching all the Pokémon.

Also, be sure to check out Niantic's "Known Issues" page.

Have any other Pokémon GO issues you'd like tackled? Let us know in the comments!