When the original nearby Pokémon tracking feature proved glitchy shortly after launch, Niantic responded by removing it entirely. The developer promised that a fix was incoming, and things looked to be on the up-and-up when the San Francisco Bay area received an overhauled locating feature in beta.
Yet there are still no plans to bring that out of the Bay and into the world, Niantic confirmed via email.
“Niantic is still testing a new type of tracking that's geo-locked to San Francisco,” a representative told us. “At this moment, there is no estimated timeline to potentially rolling it out wider.”
That won’t assuage the fears of the still-dedicated mass of Pokémon trainers, who long for guidance as winter nears.
“Niantic took away the trackers right before winter,” wrote one Reddit user. “I hope they come out with one cause who is going to wander around aimlessly in the cold?”
No one, it sounds like. The top-rated replies are all from players who reject the idea of Pokémon-hunting in the middle of the snow without any direction. There are other popular threads just like this one, each following a similar script: Players want an in-game map soon, or else they’re dropping the game.
Looking at the Pokémon Go Twitter account bears similar findings. Niantic’s excited updates about the game’s new features are just met with tepid responses from players who just want to be able to track Pokémon again.
@PokemonGoApp tracker?— SPoopadeusA 💀 (@CAmadeusA) October 11, 2016
.@PokemonGoApp STILL. NO. TRACKING. WHAT THE FUCK— Chris (@BigPuffer) October 11, 2016
This would be less of an issue if players were able to come together and create their own maps. In fact, they have, but Niantic disabled the most prominent third-party mapping sites, like PokéVision, just after removing the feature. The move prompted the game’s first major walkout, as fans lodged their complaints and outrage with the developer about the need for help.
Player-created tracking services continue to spring up, although Niantic’s locked-down location data ensures that nothing lasts long. The creator of FastPokéMap, one of those unofficial Pokémon finders, composed an enraged message to the developer that’s been making the rounds among the Pokémon Go community. It’s dramatically entitled “The fall of Pokémon Go,” and suggests that the game’s dwindling popularity is the direct result of Niantic’s anti-mapping measures.
“Don't be surprised if your userbase is tanking and don't be surprised about the huge backslash from the community” because of the increased security around location data, the post warns Niantic.
“Don't be another [Hello Games, developer of No Man’s Sky]. Listen to your community and open the api. You can still save Pokémon Go.”
Update: We’ve added Niantic’s quote above regarding the timeline for the Pokémon Go tracking feature’s return.