It's been just over five years since Niantic released Pokemon Go, the augmented reality game that spawned an entire industry. While other games have come and gone (Minecraft Earth, anyone), Pokemon Go has managed to keep its spot at the top of the stack. A lot of this has been because Niantic has been willing to listen to players' complaints about the game and respond to them. The company has also been willing to respond to the reality of the world, particularly in response to the COVID lockdowns around the world. But, in responding to the lockdowns, the company has made some mistakes.
During the lockdowns, Niantic changed the way the game was played. They changed the range from stops and gyms in an attempt to maintain additional distance between players. They added remote raid passes so that players could remain at home while still interacting with the more advanced aspects of the game. Players really appreciated the changes, and have taken advantage of them to great effect. In the office, we have been grateful for the remote raid passes, and often invite people from out of state to participate in our large raids.
But, when these features went into effect, we suspected that they would eventually be revoked. The intention was never for all of them to be a permanent addition, despite how much better the changes have made the gameplay, or how many people came back to the game during the lockdowns. It truly was a sign of just how much the company had considered their players' needs and looked for ways to meet those ever-changing needs.
However, recently, the company began rolling back some of the changes that were implemented over the past 18 months. They started by reducing the range markers for gyms and stops back to their initial states. While this was expected, the company's communication with players was absolutely terrible. We noticed it ourselves only because a stop that we used to be able to hit while leaving the office was now out of range. So, we looked at the map and noticed that all of the circles had been reduced, and we could no longer hit a stop and a gym from places where we used to stand in the past.
The company has finally recognized that they made a mistake in making these changes without major communications with players. Pokemon Go Executive Producer Steve Wang wrote in a blog post,
We should be communicating and engaging more with Trainers. I hope that, with your patience and understanding, we can do better here. There are many ways we can improve, but to start, we're making the following commitments to you:
- Starting in October, we will begin publishing a developer diary every other month to share the latest priorities, events, and features for the game.
- We are going to set up regular conversations with community leaders to continue the dialogue we began this month.
- We will continue our work on updating the Known Issues page and in those efforts, will prioritize bringing greater visibility into the status of existing bugs for Trainers.
As per usual, the company is listening to its community and making promises and changes based on the feedback. This attitude towards players is why the game continues to be #1 and why it will likely continue to have that honor.