Here's why Niantic Labs shut down third-party Pokemon trackers

Niantic Labs CEO, John Hanke, posted an update on the company's Pokémon Go news page explaining why the company decided to block third-party developers from accesing the game's servers to create Pokémon tracking apps and websites:

We were delayed in [rolling out Pokémon Go to Latin America] due to aggressive efforts by third parties to access our servers outside of the Pokémon GO game client and our terms of service. We blocked some more of those attempts yesterday. Since there has been some public discussion about this, we wanted to shed some more light on why we did this and why these seemingly innocuous sites and apps actually hurt our ability to deliver the game to new and existing players.

Hanke also noted that the cost of allowing data scrapers access to their servers affected gameplay at all levels.

In addition to hampering our ability to bring Pokémon GO to new markets, dealing with this issue also has opportunity cost. Developers have to spend time controlling this problem vs. building new features. It's worth noting that some of the tools used to access servers to scrape data have also served as platforms for bots and cheating which negatively impact all Trainers. There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but the negative impact on game resources is the same.

On a positive note, Niantic is "actively working on" fixing and returning the Nearby foot tracker to Pokémon Go. And, since they aren't spending so much time trying to combat server issues due to data scrapers, maybe they will actually have a chance to fix it soon.

I was a fan of Pokevision, myself, and was sad to see it shut down. But, I feel confident that the team at Niantic Labs made the decision to block data scrapers because of the negative affect it was having on gameplay and not just because they don't want people to cheat.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

7 Comments
  • It's currently Marco Polo, without someone calling back Polo. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Watch the Pokemon, they move down the list (responding with polo) as they get farther away. At least from what I've notice. Sent from the iMore App
  • Personally, I loved PokéVision! With 2 young kids, they liked looking on the app to see where the critters were, and then we set out to find the in that general direction. I think while they were working on fixing their footprint feature, Niantic should've let the 3rd-party stuff keep going. Blindly trying to find things in a 1-blocradius is absurd!
  • I think the point Hanke was trying to make is that the dev team hasn't been able to spend enough time fixing things like footprint tracking because they've been spending so much time dealing with server issues caused by activity from sites like Pokevision.
  • It seems according to Niantic they're going to reintroduce the tracker. Removing services like Pokévision reduces a great amount of stress on the server which makes the game more playable for everyone. Plus Pokévision was essentially cheating, being able to see exactly where all the Pokemon were at any location. I imagine the tracker will be brought back soon, and the game will be better and fairer for everyone
  • So although Pokevision and other third party trackers have been shut down, there are other apps that currently provide pokemon location. Go Rader - Pokemon app is one of them. Can someone explain why apps like that are still functioning?
  • Because it is not using Niantic servers to find its data. It is crowdsourcing. So if you find a Pidgey in your front yard, you report it, and Go Radar tracks that and tells others they can find a Pidgey in your yard. So in reality, it is only as good as the data being supplied. That means when little Billy decides to report a Pikachu at the local Starbucks, then sit in the Wendy's parking lot and watch all the gullibles show up, you will have to guess whether Billy is telling the truth or not.