Way to go, Niantic. You’re making me look like a fucking idiot.
Since my original defence of Pokémon GO just a few weeks ago, a lot of negativity has come up surrounding the game, and not just from the usual “gamers are losers” crowd. Much of the game’s core fan base are up in arms over some of the game’s ongoing issues and Niantic’s response to them, which has been less than exemplary. I still haven’t had an opportunity to play the game, but needless to say, the FOMO I talked about in my original Pokémon GO piece is quickly evaporating.
The game is yet another example of a major release being pushed out the door before it was ready. The server issues I alluded to a few weeks ago have seemingly abated as the launch hype dissipated, but each new update to the game has brought in more bugs and has made gameplay a more frustrating experience. The infamous “three step glitch” made it appear that all Pokémon were as far away from your position as possible, making a player’s hunt for specific Pokémon into something of a crapshoot since you had no idea where they actually were. In addition, many players have lost in-game items, mostly eggs, after crashes and server failures, while freezing and performance issues are quite common.
Yeah, that’s not good. I have made it very clear in the past that releasing an incomplete and buggy game is completely unacceptable, and mobile games are no exception. Pokémon GO is probably the biggest game release of the year, beyond even Overwatch, and it pains me to see it in such a poor state. This should have been a sure-fire win for gamers, and while it has been successful, success is sadly not always an indicator of quality.
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However what pushes this situation from being mildly infuriating into table-flipping rage has been how Niantic has been dealing with the players. Or should it be: how they haven’t dealt with them, since it appears Niantic is completely unable to deal with any sort of public relations at all? Most of those bugs that I mentioned? They weren’t all there to begin with, most arose during updates which were completely unannounced beforehand, not even on official social media accounts! They then went and shot themselves in the foot and removed the tracking feature altogether, not just to fix the three step glitch, but to make it impossible for third party websites to track Pokémon Go—all unannounced and unexplained. Since most regarded tracking as a necessary feature, you can understand why people are mad. Even those who wanted to request refunds are shit-out-of-luck, since those go to an unmonitored email address in breach of the Android terms and conditions, which could potentially see the game be pulled.
If media studies has taught me one thing, it’s that communication is as much about what you say as what you do: by doing nothing in response to an outcry, you’re implying that you just don’t care what the audience thinks. By failing to inform people when and why certain changes were made to the game, Niantic have subsequently inflamed a potential PR disaster and it could well come back to bite them. While I have nothing against people who are continuing to enjoy Pokémon GO, it’s kind of hypocritical of me to continue to defend a game whose ongoing problems go against everything I stand for as a games critic.
Niantic, just hire a PR person. It’ll solve an awful lot.