When tracking service Pokevision was initially shut down last weekend, Yang Liu, the proprietor, didn’t say much about what was going on. Today, he breaks his silence with a long letter that pleads Niantic to change its stance on Pokémon trackers.
You can read the whole thing here, but one of the most shocking things in the post are the raw numbers. According to Liu, 50 million unique people used Pokevision at some point. The last figure I saw for Pokémon Go’s total userbase was around 80 million, and even assuming it’s higher now, it still means that more than half of the entire playerbase used Pokevision to hunt down specific monsters. That’s how huge the service was, and why people considered its shutdown such a big deal.
When most of your players use a service, the entire idea of “cheating” becomes more complex. In this case, Liu argues, it wasn’t evidence of people wanting to gain an upper hand, but rather proof that something was wrong with Pokémon Go’s own mechanics. Pokevision was but a plaster on a more pressing problem, and that was a lack of tracking.
Pokevision, at this time has grown to almost 50M unique users, and 11 million daily.
Let that sink in for a second.
Half of the player base of Pokemon Go stopped by — and they didn’t do so to “cheat.” The game was simply too unbearable to play in its current state for many (note: many, not all). The main attraction wasn’t that they got to have an advantage with Pokevision, the main attraction was that it allowed them to play Pokemon Go more. This is what everyone wants — to play Pokemon Go more.
When we closed Pokevision out of respect for your wishes, and at your requests— one of which came directly from you, John — we trusted you guys fully in allowing the community to grow. I literally cannot express this more — we just want to play the game. We can handle the bugs every now and then, but please at least tell us you guys care. Yes, Pokevision does give some advantages that may be TOO much; but is it all that bad? Pokemon has survived 20 years — even grown, I would say. And Pokemon Go made it even bigger. If the argument is that “well, if you catch a Snorlax you weren’t supposed to find, but you found it on Pokevision, it might make you play less.” If that was your argument, I’d have to disagree! I’ll still catch a damn Snorlax even if I have 20 of them. Just like how millions of us have caught probably over 100 pidgey’s or zubat’s each.
Pokemon is everlasting. The same 151 Pokemon have been around for 20 years. If 80M people downloaded and played Pokemon Go within a week (before it even released in multiple major countries) isn’t an indication that no one can be sick of Pokemon, I don’t know what is.
After disabling the in-game tracker and Pokevision, the ratings on iOs and Android Google Play store went from 4.0 stars to 1.0–1.5. I am only one person, I admit that my sole opinion is not important, but what about the countless players begging for the game to be restored to its former state? I may be biased in saying that Pokevision being down had an impact on the amount of negative ratings, refund requests and outcry on social media — but could it be true? Nothing has changed between the time the in-game tracker broke and Pokevision went down. Could it just be possible that the tracker — no matter if Pokevision made it, or Niantic made it, is something that players desperately NEED — not want, but NEED — in order to play the game? Could it be possible that this is the very core fundamental feature that drives most players? I understand that there are some that want to walk around and stumble on a random Pokemon — to each their own. But, 50M unique users and 11M daily and the ratings on your App (with no significant change in itself) are big indicators of this desire. Are customers always right? Especially if over half of them are looking for an outside fix just so they can enjoy something they love? People are naturally inquisitive, and in this case, they just want to play more and more, so they sought out something that helps them do so.
Earlier today, Niantic issued a statement on whey they shut down tracking services, claiming that they “interfer[ed] with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users and to bring Pokémon GO to users around the world.”