Massively on the Go: Pokemon Go players are voting against Niantic with their feet

    
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I hate being negative. I really do. But at the same time, because Niantic continually lands major IPs to make poorly designed games (if they manage to launch), I feel it’s necessary to be quite public about how and why this company needs to go through a major makeover, at least at the top of the pyramid. And it seems I’m not alone, as we’ve seen plenty of players voting against the company with their feet.

So it’s with heavy fingers I once again must remind the masses that Niantic is massively failing its Pokemon GO community, with no hope of changes immediately in sight. As usual, these fails largely have to do with events, a consistent lack of communication, ignoring old bugs, and launching things the studio knows are broken but does anyway in the hopes that that less communication means their errors will be less noticed by the gaming community at large.

Ahead of the event, gamers noted that both the PvP and PvE outlook for the featured Pokemon looked dire. Now, this isn’t entirely Niantic’s fault, as Ursaluna currently learns no Ground moves that turn into POGO Fast Moves in the main game series, but PvP enthusiasts reported that Shadow Claw could really give the pokemon an edge. Niantic, however, decided against that, in spite of players constantly bringing it up in social media posts.

While you can argue that people online, especially in highly engaged communities, can be quite vocal, I also saw people voting with their feet when it came to event turnout. Niantic stans could argue that it was Veteran’s Day weekend, but locals have done Christmas Day EX Raids in the past. Those players are still active. Of those people, I saw one other during Community Day. Six showed up throughout the Sunday event, with about 14 accounts between them all (and they never coordinated with groups publicly), so I don’t think the holiday weekend is a strong argument when looking at my own local scene’s abysmal attendance as of late. The crowd’s also largely retirees and parents, so I don’t think it being the Pokemon x Splatoon 3 Collab Splatfest weekend made a large impact either.

As you can see in the header, my usual place of choice was less busy than usual. In fact, no one from a local group I joined several months ago attended. No one from another group I’m associated was at that location either. And in another community, the numbers for another group fell; 32 people as of this writing said they participated in the event’s wrap-up survey, but the two previous non-Classic Community Days had 40 participants. More people always attend than take the surveys, but the surveys have always served as a great way to get a pulse on the local scene. 11/16 Update: Since publishing, that number has risen to 40.

It’s not that no one came, but even one of my former coworkers, who arrived halfway through the event, noticed the crowds were not nearly as big as Dratini Community Day, which is a pokemon that’s been largely outpaced in many of its PvE roles and was literally a repeat event. Ursaluna isn’t just a featured pokemon but a new pokemon from one of the newest games, outselling several remakes/third versions. You would think that combined with triple Stardust would lure people out, but several Pokestops went unlured for over a third of the event, something I’d never seen at that location before.

It also doesn’t help that Niantic barely gave information on the Elite Raids taking place the next day. In fact, our own coverage of the event says more about it since we included the Japanese announcement the English site failed to include. The last event was embarrassing, and Niantic never owned up to its failings. Sadly at this point, Niantic being disrespectful to its community is the norm, mostly via poor communication on multiple major events and milestones. The November 13th Elite Raids were no different.

Once again, players had less than 24 hours to make plans, as the first raids begin at 11 a.m. Sunday but we didn’t see raid locations until 6 p.m. Saturday night. The raid times were the same, but each location didn’t necessarily have the same activation timer (i.e., if Gym A’s raid started at 11 a.m. last time, it might have started at 5 p.m. this time). My partner from last time, who experienced the lack of spawns bug, seemed to have wholly lost interest in the raids because of them.

And that’s the next issue: spawns. Early reports noted a lack of the spawn feature this time. My 11 a.m. local raids had them, but the turnout was at least half of what it was last time, possibly less, and those who showed were largely multi-accounters.

I’m not the only one who noticed this, nor is my community the only one relying on multi-accounters, which are against Niantic’s Terms of Service under section 3.1 anyway. Niantic doesn’t seem to enforce this particular policy unless someone is, say, stalking other players, and disallowing Remote Raids only seems to reinforce the reliance players have on using multiple accounts to shore up low-population real-life communities. Even before raids were introduced, I noted the problem with low-RL populations feeling akin to dead servers. Niantic’s COVID-era Remote Raid Passes helped fix this issue in some ways, and like many of those features, rolling them back has been a huge mistake, especially when they attacked Community Day hours.

While the raids were full, I think there were about eight people total, and several of them didn’t have accounts really prepared for the fight. Naturally, between multi-accounting and drive-and-play mode, only three of us risked checking the spawns, and that was only after the second raid, as the massive bugs from last time scared us too much to risk missing out; the end-of-raid bug preventing rewards even when the boss has been defeated remains.

While we didn’t have any “reward spawns” despawn on us like last time, the spawns seemed far fewer, with one location only getting uncommon spawns at best, which was a massive disappointment due to the event taking place after dark and it being the one location not 50% on the side of a road. Between the less minor bugs of the last event, potential need for needing time to relobby to redefeat the boss, and hidden range restrictions for the spawn buff, no one wanted to explore much, once again cutting back on Niantic’s overall company goals (socialization, exercise, and exploration).

Again, much of this comes down to embarrassingly bad communication. The only mention in English players got was a Tweet made basically at the start of the US event, meaning the event was over for half the world. It made no mention of fixes to the last event, and Niantic’s inability to take responsibility for what happened previously clearly shook consumer confidence. It’s sad that what normally would have been an event that could have brought players together instead caused them to question the value of even making an attempt to go out.

Unfortunately, that’s just been par for the course for Pokemon Go over the last year or so.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
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