'Pokemon Go' is dying -- and Niantic Labs is doing little to stop the bleeding

“Pokémon Go” is probably the biggest mobile game in history — and easily the biggest game to come out this year. But unfortunately, “Pokémon Go” continues to fall down the App Store charts — and its developer, Niantic Labs, is doing little to stop the bleeding.

Despite news that the game is getting a four-day Halloween event starting this week, here’s the top post on the “Pokémon Go” subreddit (nearly 750,000 subscribers) on Monday morning:

“Is anyone else just sad?”

This collection of “Pokémon Go” Reddit posts sums up fans’ general feelings about the game since its July launch. What was once an extremely promising game, which got people excited about going outside and exploring, has been marred by the actions of the game’s developer, Niantic Labs.

One Reddit user sums up some of the problems quite nicely:

The lack of lures is just one problem. At the beginning of the game, it’s easy to collect these items, which turn the game’s many Pokéstops into hot spots that lure wild Pokémon to gamers so they can catch them. But as you level up (which is a grind in itself), lures aren’t rewarded as often, and when fewer people have lures, that detracts from the overall social aspect of the game. Fewer people congregate in populated areas to catch Pokémon together, which was one of the best aspects of the game when it launched.

The bigger issue in “Pokémon Go,” however, revolves around the game’s many third-party trackers. In July, the ability to track Pokémon was a central feature of the game: Each Pokémon nearby had a certain number of footsteps underneath, which corresponded to the distance of that Pokémon to your location. It was kind of like a fun “Hot/Cold” game. But when this feature interfered with the game’s servers, Niantic shut it down completely.

Since then, dozens of third-party trackers have sprung up, offering useful maps that let you see where Pokémon are spawning. These tools are a nice way to remove some of the grind of the game — by helping you find the Pokémon you still need — but they’re also completely optional.

And yet, Niantic has spent a great deal of time and resources since July into shutting down these trackers, much to the dismay of fans and developers alike.

In August, Niantic argued these third-party services “were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users,” and the company would probably argue that it’s tough to roll out new features if the company is already having trouble delivering its baseline service to customers.

Still, fans are not happy that in four months of availability, Niantic has still yet to introduce many of the promised features for “Pokémon Go” (emphasis ours):

Fans believe Niantic lost significant momentum since the game’s launch — and it will be difficult to attract many of those old players back to the game, unless some major changes are announced, and soon.

Part of this malaise among the hardcore Pokémon Go community is also rooted in knowing little might be done, if the company’s past actions are any indication of its future intentions. Many people who played Niantic’s last game — “Ingress,” which served as the basis for “Pokémon Go” — similarly complained about the company’s general lack of communication and transparency, especially when it came to updates and new features.

It’s not too late

The angst among “Pokémon Go” fans would probably be alleviated if one of these five features were announced soon:

– Actual tracking (not just a “Nearby” feature)

– Trading, for both Pokémon and items

– One-on-one battling, outside of gyms

– Legendary Pokémon

– New Pokémon from other games

It would also be great to see “Pokémon Go” turn into a social network. Imagine seeing other friends playing the game nearby, so you two can meet, message, trade, battle, and more.

Unfortunately, all the updates coming to “Pokémon Go” recently have been largely superficial. Niantic has tweaked the capture rates for some Pokémon, and changed how some of the menus and achievements look in-game. But by and large, the game has still stayed the same since July.

We’ve reached out to Niantic to learn more about these issues, and any features coming in future updates, but the company was not immediately available to respond.

If Niantic wants to bring “Pokémon Go” back to its former glory, it needs to meet the needs of its most hardcore fans, first and foremost. Many people stopped playing because they reached a plateau, making it difficult to 1) level up more, and get more items like lures, and 2) catch more Pokémon they don’t have. Niantic needs to fix these issues to make playing feel like less of a grind, but it also needs to add more features to keep things fresh. More events like the Halloween one would be great, but it’d be even better if those events were longer than just four days.

In August, Niantic’s Facebook post seemed like an encouraging moment — a nod to its critics about transparency, and a sign that the company might change its strategy and start listening to fans in order to please the community.

But that hasn’t happened yet. Fans may hold out hope, but as time goes on, and updates only add modest changes to the game, “Pokémon Go” will continue its disappointing descent down the App Store charts.

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