Pokémon fans have poured millions of hours and millions of dollars into Niantic’s most popular game, Pokémon GO, but despite all the revenue, the developer has shown little interest in really listening to its customers. This has really come to a head with the company’s decision to end an increase to spin distances for PokéStops and Gyms, something that not only made playing during the COVID-19 era safer, but also helped alleviate issues for rural, disabled and other gamers.
Now, popular players and websites are delivering a stern message to the company: listen to and acknowledge feedback from the people who play your games and spend their money in them. This is not “do as we say or else”, this is simply a desperate cry for real community interaction from the developers who have shown very little engagement.
Players have largely stomached the return of pre-pandemic restrictions in GO, but the necessity to stand very near to PokéStops and Gyms are something many are wary about.
You don’t have to be a news junkie to know that the delta variant has been spreading quickly in the United States and other countries (although the distance reduction started with only the US and New Zealand). Just yesterday, I talked with someone in Florida who lost their brother two weeks ago and father in June. It was shocking, but also a reminder that we still need to be careful.
“Just don’t play,” is not a hard type of reply to find on Twitter when discussing the issue, but in the end, Niantic is doing itself no favors by alienating players who want to protect their health. It also doesn’t help to reward the company for ignoring player feedback, because when you have a concern/feature request/idea in the future, it is likely to be ignored if they’re encouraged to pay no heed to the community.
Pokémon pays their bills
Here’s a look at June 2021 stats from Niantic’s games, courtesy of app-tracking site Sensor Tower:
- 10k downloads
- $100k revenue
- 40k downloads
- $100k revenue
- 2 mil downloads
- $52 mil revenue
Notice a difference above? Pokémon fans are driving the majority of their app downloads and revenue. We are not some insignificant group (and when I say that, I am not saying players of any of their games are). They should be working together with us to make their product even better and more successful. Some of the most successful game developers and studios are the ones who invest in real community management and engagement.
So why does Niantic think it is above talking with the people it wants to open their wallets and play their games?
Is Niantic company culture to blame?
Glassdoor, a website for reviewing employers, doesn’t paint the best picture of Niantic as a company.
It has a middling 3.3/5 stars for its general reviews from employees (past and present), with only 46% willing to recommend a friend work there.
I don’t want to obscure the facts — there are many people who enjoy(ed) their time working for Niantic. However, there is a lot of pointed criticism as well. A consistent theme was poor leadership with unqualified people holding positions of power.
One review was particularly scathing, claiming that employees would be punished for listening to and advocating for things players wanted. They went on to say bug fixes and improvements were regularly passed by in favor of pursing other things. All in all, it is pretty disconcerting. If you don’t have a Glassdoor account, the full review was posted here.
How you can help: #HearUsNiantic
- Don’t make in-app purchases
- Express your thoughts on the changes in an honest app review
- Raid and gym battle as little as possible
- Don’t play (if you can handle that)
- Spread the message on social media with #HearUsNiantic
This isn’t the first, or second, time we’ve called Niantic out. It’s disappointing to be doing the same old song and dance. We want to love Pokémon GO! We don’t want to be adversarial towards Niantic!
Leave your own thoughts in the comments below or join us for real-time conversation in our Discord server.
Peace and love.