I'm the ideal Pokémon Go trainer. I walk a 35 minute commute to and from work every day, and I am constantly looking at my phone. So why am I not up to my neck in Charizards and Pikachus? It's because the game kinda sucks.
No, not the gameplay itself; I love holding down on my screen until the circles tighten around my prey and then flicking Pokéballs to capture these pocket monsters. Pokémon Go is terrible because of how often it refuses to work right. Of the eight times I attempted to sign in this weekend, I only made it in twice. The rest of the time, the game flooded my screen with error messages including "Failed to log in," "Failed to get game data from the server" and "Unable to connect to server."
And one of the two times I made it past the login progress screen of death, Pokémon Go dropped my trainer in an empty game world. Witnessing my avatar trapped in a sea of digital nothingness felt as if I were watching a philosopher's commentary on augmented reality.
I'm far from alone, and these aren't the only barriers facing prospective Pokémon Trainers: I can't log into Twitter these days without hearing about someone catching a rare monster only to have the game crash. Either the game freezes before it zooms in on the Pokéball after you catch a critter, or the ball doesn't bounce and the app hangs on the still ball, without presenting the usual message that you caught the monster.
These in-game freezes lead to one of two results. Either the game lists the Pokémon as caught in your Pokédex, or it will list the monster as seen but not caught, which happened to Tom's Guide staff writer Andrew E. Freedman when he almost wrangled a Dratini.
These issues appear to be tied to game servers that are ill equipped to handle all of the traffic and Pokéballs getting thrown at them. This is an inexcusable problem considering that the app is developed by AR veterans Niantic and published by Nintendo's The Pokemon Company -- not some rinky-dink startup.
Yet, Pokémon Go is still holding the top slot in the Free Apps charts on the iOS and Google Play app stores, which isn't a surprise. When it works, this game is so entertaining that players willingly suffer through glitches and privacy snafus.
But we shouldn't have to slog through Pokémon Go's blemishes and failures to launch in order to enjoy it. When devotion to the game is so strong that I'm witnessing public parks populated with clusters of Pokemon Go players after midnight, we're giving this game far more than it's providing.
The game's issues worsened over the past weekend (July 16 and 17) as the app rolled out to 26 European countries, which reportedly coincided with signup problems. Hacker groups OurMine and PoodleCorp took credit for service outages over the weekend, but whether or not their claims are legit, frequent users know that it doesn't take a malicious attack to break Pokémon Go's servers.
In order for Pokémon Go to sustain and grow its audience further, its servers needs significant upgrades and the app should receive more patches. Since the app collects a ton of users' location data, developer Niantic would be wise to tighten security to prevent hackers from taking advantage of its mistakes (if it hasn't done so already).
In other words: for Pokémon Go to deserve our full attention, it ought to be the very best. Which will take some work.