Pokémon Go just received one of its most substantial updates yet, but many players are treating it like a major downgrade. It's hard to blame them — developer Niantic outright removed certain features in favor of fixing them, and now that it's cracked-down on third-party Pokémon-tracking tools, some fans feel like a key part of the experience is missing.
The complaints around the current state of Pokémon Go are certainly valid, but feel overblown for a game that's still very enjoyable — and still very free.
For starters, the latest update actually heralds some welcome changes. The game generally has a cleaner look, and it's a bit easier to transfer your unwanted Pokémon now (there's still no mass transfer feature, unfortunately). The game's more powerful Pokémon have been balanced slightly, meaning you shouldn't see as many Vaporeons dominating your local gym. Hilariously, the game also now reminds you not to tresspass or drive while you're playing Pokémon Go, because some folks do forget.
Unfortunately, as part of the same update, Niantic has opted to completely cut some of the game's more flawed features instead of fixing them. Pokémon Go's battery saver mode was removed from the iOS version due to it causing screen-freezing issues, but now there's no power-saving option for iPhone players who just want to have the game open while they incubate some eggs.
But the biggest point of contention for fans is how Niantic is handling Pokémon tracking, which has been a hot-button issue since the game's launch.
Can't Track 'Em All
Pokémon Go was originally designed to let you track nearby Pokémon in-game, with a footprint-icon system that shows how close you are to that elusive Charmander or Squirtle in your area. However, the title's infamous "three-step glitch" made that impossible, as all nearby Pokemon are labeled as being super far away, regardless of how close they might actually be to you.
Niantic's "fix" for the issue? Removing footprints entirely. You'll no longer be duped into thinking every nearby Pokémon is a long walk away, but you'll also still have no sense of how close you actually are to one.
Pokémon Go's admittedly abysmal in-game tracking was tolerated due to the presence of popular online tools such as Pokevision, which shows what Pokémon are spawning in your area and how long they'll be there. However, over the same weekend that the game's controversial update was released, Niantic has seemingly ordered these third-party trackers to close up shop.
Naturally, players are upset — some are even going as far as requesting refunds from iTunes on every in-game purchase they've made. But I think that a lot of those players are forgetting two key things: Pokémon Go can be thoroughly enjoyed without dropping a dime, and that the core of what makes it so enjoyable is still there.
In fact, using online trackers arguably dulls one of Pokémon Go's greatest strengths. Some of my most memorable in-game moments have come when I randomly stumbled on a rare Scyther or Porygon while walking my dog — not when I routinely swept through an area to rack up Charmanders.
And let's be real — tools such as Pokévision were bound to get shut down eventually. They're not officially sanctioned by Niantic or The Pokémon Company, and they must be futzing with the game's code in some way if they're able to reveal Pokémon locations.
Fortunately, Niantic has not stripped away your ability to, you know, talk to other players, and there are plenty of region-specific Facebook groups where players share information about where to find the best creatures. That sense of joyful, socially-fueled discovery is what has made every playable version of Pokémon special, and Pokémon Go is no different.
Are fans right to expect more from a game that racks in $10 million per day and features one of the most valuable brands on the planet? Absolutely. I genuinely hope Niantic is listening to fan feedback and working on better in-game tracking tools, and I applaud those making their complaints loud and clear. But Pokémon Go is far from doomed, and judging by the hordes of people I still see playing it every day, I'd wager that most folks would agree.