Pokémon Go's developers are defending killing off a key feature

The development studio behind Pokémon Go has defended its decision to kill off a key feature in the game and block third-party map apps.

Posting on Facebook on Tuesday, Niantic addressed the controversy around the recent removal of the “footprints” feature from the wildly popular augmented reality smartphone game.

It worked by showing users (roughly) how close they were to a given pokémon in their area — but, amid some technical issues, it was removed entirely at the end of July in the game’s first major patch.

Niantic is now doubling down on this move, despite calls for its return — and indicates it won’t come be coming back any time soon.

“In order to improve upon the [game’s] underlying design” the feature was removed, the company wrote. “The original feature, although enjoyed by many, was also confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals. We will keep you posted as we strive to improve this feature.”

The removal of the footprints radar has proved especially irksome for some players because Niantic is forcing third-party map apps and websites to close — leaving users with no effective way to find pokémon. These maps, the most popular of which was called Pokévision, would tap into the games data to tell you exactly what pokémon are in your vicinity and where to find them.

CEO John Hanke told Forbes in July that such sites violate the game’s terms of service. “People are only hurting themselves because it takes some fun out of the game,” he said. “People are hacking around trying to take data out of our system and that’s against our terms of service.”

The new message from Niantic doubles down on this crackdown. But it frames it as a technical necessity, rather than because the map apps “[take] some fun out of the game” or violate the company’s terms of service.

“We have limited access by third-party services which were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users and to bring Pokémon GO to users around the world,” Niantic said. “The large number of users has made the roll-out of Pokémon GO around the world an … interesting … challenge.”

In short: The radar is gone, and the map apps are gone. You’re on your own, pokémon hunters.

Here’s the full post from Niantic:

Trainers,

As many of you know, we recently made some changes to Pokémon GO.

– We have removed the ‘3-step’ display in order to improve upon the underlying design. The original feature, although enjoyed by many, was also confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals. We will keep you posted as we strive to improve this feature.

– We have limited access by third-party services which were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users and to bring Pokémon GO to users around the world. The large number of users has made the roll-out of Pokémon GO around the world an… interesting… challenge. And we aren’t done yet! Yes, Brazil, we want to bring the game to you (and many other countries where it is not yet available).

We have read your posts and emails and we hear the frustration from folks in places where we haven’t launched yet, and from those of you who miss these features. We want you to know that we have been working crazy hours to keep the game running as we continue to launch globally. If you haven’t heard us Tweeting much it’s because we’ve been heads down working on the game. But we’ll do our best going forward to keep you posted on what’s going on.

Be safe, be nice to your fellow trainers, and keep on exploring.

The Pokémon GO team

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