‘Pokemon Go’ Developer Removes Pokemon Tracking, Blocks 3rd-Party Apps

Pokemon Go
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty

Catching them all just got harder: Combined with a controversial patch to Pokemon Go, the removal of Pokemon tracking apps like Pokevision has left many players frustrated.

Pokemon Go‘s biggest update has brought several requested features to the experience, allowing for character editing post-creation, interface improvements, and increasing the variety of species available in various locales. Unfortunately, that update is also part of some pretty harsh changes for the worse.

To aid you in your search, Pokemon Go had a “footsteps” feature that offered one, two, or three footsteps to give you a rough idea of your distance from a wild Pokemon. This feature was frequently buggy to the point of being altogether unusable, and the latest patch addresses that… by removing the feature completely.

What’s more, third party applications like Yangcheng Liu’s Pokevision, which checked the game’s code to give you an accurate reading of a Pokemon’s location, has now been officially blocked by the game. Liu is “respecting Niantic and Nintendo’s wishes,” but it’s unclear whether that is a polite way of explaining a threat of legal action, or just a very cooperative fan.

So, not only can you no longer save yourself hours of time wandering an area in hopes of stepping into the right area to catch Pokemon, you can’t even use the nebulous triangulation afforded by the app itself. For the roughly 27 million people already depending on Pokevision to make the game a little less frustrating — without even considering the numerous others utilizing similar tools — this news isn’t welcom.

This makes an often tedious part of the game outright irritating and exponentially raises the amount of time needed to catch anything. And while that may artificially extend the game’s lifetime for some people, many more seem likely to give up on the game completely. Developer Niantic may have overestimated the average player’s commitment to a complete Pokedex.

Niantic CEO John Hankes told Forbes that he was “not a fan” of the tracking app. He has his own ideas about maintaining the player base, including the possibility of official Pokemon Go events similar to those held for Ingress, Niantic’s game preceeding Pokemon Go. We may also see medals that complement the current achievement system, and of course the inevitable expansion of available Pokemon in the world as time goes on.

Will it be enough to cover for this slap in the face to playability? Is Niantic going to bring back some semblance of stable and competent in-app tracking in the future? Only time will tell. Their ability to address player quality-of-life issues will decide whether Pokemon Go is more than just a flash in the pan.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.