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Niantic Labs hasn't been fond of third-party trackers for Pokemon Go. They claim that it slows down the servers and works as a cheat for the game. One of the creators of Pokevision, a third-party tracking app, wrote an open letter to Niantic following the shut down of the app to address some player concerns.
Yang Liu, the creator of Pokevision, wrote the open letter to Niantic Labs' CEO John Hanke over on Medium. It's a lengthy piece that starts with Liu's passion for Pokemon ever since he was a child, leading all the way up to his nostalgia being rekindled by the franchise with the release of Pokemon Go.
Liu explains that Pokevision wasn't the be-all, end-all solution for the tracking issues in Pokemon Go, but when Niantic requested for them to shut it down, they thought that Niantic would have a solution of their own. They didn't. Liu writes in part as a plea and part out of frustration, stating...
People had a temporary solution in Pokevision, but we knew, and everyone else knew, this wouldn't be permanent. We didn't make Pokevision to spite you, Niantic --- we made it so that we can keep everyone playing while we wait patiently.
Half of the player base of Pokemon Go stopped by --- and they didn't do so to "cheat." The game was simply too unbearable to play in its current state for many (note: many, not all). The main attraction wasn't that they got to have an advantage with Pokevision, the main attraction was that it allowed them to play Pokemon Go more.
When we closed Pokevision out of respect for your wishes, and at your requests --- one of which came directly from you, John --- we trusted you guys fully in allowing the community to grow. I literally cannot express this more --- we just want to play the game. We can handle the bugs every now and then, but please at least tell us you guys care.
Liu makes some good points in the piece. While many might just assume it's a creator trying to stay in the limelight with his app that's piggybacking off the success of Pokemon Go, he does explain that 50 million people out of the 80 million Pokemon Go players have downloaded Pokevision as a way to help them track down Pokemon within the game, since the actual in-game Pokemon tracker is broken.
And therein lies the crux of the situation. Pokevision may be seen as a cheat by Niantic Labs because it works as a radar system that shows the nearby Pokemon on your screen, letting you know exactly where you can capture them, but it's also a replacement for a core feature that doesn't work.
Pokemon Go's tracking system is supposed to show three paw prints from a Pokemon as an indicator of how close you are to its location; a little like breadcrumbs on a trail. However, the tracking feature (also referred to as the 3-step system) has been broken for some time and Niantic decided to simply remove it for it now.
While it makes sense to remove the feature that's broken, it seems a little masochistic to also force the Pokemon Go radar systems like Pokevision offline as well.
According to Yang Liu, the game's app ratings on the digital storefronts has taken a dive as people are no longer able to track or see where any Pokemon are in the actual game unless they randomly stumble upon them. While it is true that on the iTunes App Store, the rating for the current version (with tracking disabled) has dropped from four stars down to two, the Google Play Store seems to have a consistent rating, with the majority of the people still giving the game five stars.
Ultimately, Liu is asking Niantic Labs to simply fix their game. In the long run, disabling any form of a tracking system in Pokemon Go will likely start to affect aspects of the player base who rely on the tracking system to find Pokemon, and that would hurt Niantic a lot more than allowing radar systems like Pokevision to exist.