Pokemon Go Developer Responds to Community Day Backlash

Last week, Pokemon Go developer Niantic received significant backlash from fans when it made a big change to April's two Community Days. Reversing a change made in 2020, the developer cut Community Day down from six hours to just three. At the time, Niantic claimed that the company's internal research indicated that players rarely spend more than three hours playing on Community Day. In a new interview with Kotaku, live game director Michael Steranka pointed out that the move is also part of a greater push to make Pokemon Go more focused on the aspects of exploration and social interaction that first popularized it.

"We really want players to have that sense of their local community, and create bonds—and strength in bonds—because we really feel like that's what sets our products apart from any other game out there," Steranka told Kotaku.

When Pokemon Go launched in the summer of 2016, it was an immediate hit, leading to fans around the world leaving their homes and interacting with one another as they sought out rare Pokemon; for those that played the game at launch, there's a lot of nostalgia for those early days. However, the coronavirus pandemic made it much more difficult for people to gather in large groups, and the game made many changes to adapt to this reality. Last year, Niantic rolled back one of these changes, requiring closer proximity to spin PokeStops. The move similarly led to great frustration from the community, and Niantic eventually switched back. Niantic has made other pre-pandemic reversals, including changes to Incense. Steranka tells Kotaku that these changes are not meant to make more money, but rather to get back to the original vision, which Niantic believes will result in a more enjoyable game.

"We never want Pokémon GO to be a product that you can fully complete and enjoy from your couch. And the fact of the matter is, with Incense being as powerful as it was, stationary players were able to do that, right?"

Essentially, Steranka believes that fewer Community Day hours will lead to more people playing and enjoying the game together at the same time. As Kotaku points out, many people have picked up Pokemon Go over the last two years, and don't know the game as it originally launched. These changes are making it more restrictive to them, as well as to those with disabilities that make it more difficult to get out and play. It's unclear how Niantic can reconcile this vision with the realities of the player base, and the fact that the pandemic has not come to an end. For now, Pokemon Go players will just have to keep making their voices heard.

Are you disappointed with Niantic's Community Day changes? Do you think the game is getting less user-friendly? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!