Tech by VICE

Niantic Shuts Down 'Pokémon Go' Tracking App, and Players Are in Revolt

Developer Niantic shuts down app that lets players see where rare pokémon can be found.

by Leif Johnson
Jul 31 2016, 6:48pm

Image: Poke Radar.

Niantic, the studio behind Pokémon Go, isn't too happy some of you have figured out how to find the rarest of pokémon with tracking apps like Poké Radar. In an interview with Forbes on Thursday, Niantic CEO John Hanke claimed he was "not a fan" of such tools and that players "might find in the future that those things may not work." The future, it seems, is now. Earlier today the popular tracking apps Pokevision announced that they were no longer offering their services for the time being, out of a desire to follow "Niantic and Nintendo's wishes." More are expected to follow.

These apps essentially let players walk right up to the areas where they could find rare pokémon, taking some of the guesswork out of the game but also saving players from hours of sorting through the legions of pidgies and ratatas in the world. In Hanke's words, they take "some fun out of the game" and he later groups them with a "cheating and spoofing."

But such projects have also been the stars of some of the more fascinating tales to come out of the the summer craze, such as the guy who hooked up Pokémon Go to IBM's Watson artificial intelligence platform for the sake of finding rare battle pets. Barely a day of release had gone by before players were already tricking the app to respond to false coordinates in an effort to find rare beasts, and a group of Redditors figured out how to show all the rare pokémon in your area on Google Maps. It's been one of those rare, beautiful occasions when programmers and the general public work and communicate hand-in-hand, possibly even inspiring some future programmers in the process.

John Hanke says it's cheating. And let's admit it, if only in the sense that a walkthrough for a game tells you exactly where to go, he's kind of right. But the apps also provided a workaround for a feature that was always in the game but which never worked—until the most recent patch, a set of tracks for guessing how far away a nearby pokémon would always show three paw prints, effectively rendering the tool useless. (Now the tracks don't even show up at all.) Tracking sites, at their most innocent, allowed players to close those gaps.

Hanke's attitude isn't going over so well with the declining Pokémon Go faithful, through. Take player Jase Balridge, who said in a tweet this afternoon that Pokémon Go needs such tools because "spawns are way too random and appear in too inconvenient places to not have tracking." Consider Pokevision's Yangcheng Liu, who tweeted that "You don't invent Marco Polo, get 80M players to join, then remove the Polo part and expect people to keep playing."

The Pokémon Go subreddit now even has its own "Rage Megathread" aimed at Niantic, where people are venting their frustrations with eloquent statements like "AT LEAST YOU CAN WASTE 10 POKEBALLS FOR A FUCKING 10CP PIDGEY, ONCE YOU'RE ABOVE LEVEL 20. ISN'T THAT FUN???"

Surely worst of all (from Niantic's perspective, at least), players have figured out they can demand full refunds from iTunes because the app now "functions differently than expected." Still another Redditor claims the demand is making things tough at Apple as well:

Ouch. If you reverse your decision quickly enough Niantic, maybe there's still time to catch 'em all.