It was one year ago that Pokemon GO launched onto mobile app stores (in a staggered release) and was quick to take the world by storm. Yes, there were plenty of issues with the game’s servers in those early days, but 365 days later those seem a distant memory. Even so, developer Niantic is still feeling the effects of that early speed bump and is working hard to recover.
Obviously, the Pokemon GO server issues didn’t hurt the game’s success, but from a development perspective they did force Niantic to adapt. As CEO John Hanke explains, the team originally had a road map for features it wanted to add, but that needed to be changed to focus on improving the infrastructure supporting Pokemon GO. Online-focused games live and die by the quality of their servers, and Niantic needed to make sure it got everything right.
As far as what has been most impacted by those launch-month issues, Hanke says that it “pushed out things [they] still want to have.” The developer needed to “redirect a substantial portion of the engineering team to [work on] infrastructure versus new features.”
“We lost probably six months on our schedule because of the success of the game. Really all the way through November and December, from launch onward we were rebuilding and rewiring infrastructure just to keep the game running at the scale that we were running at. We were fortunate to have a massive launch, a massive success, and many, many more users than we had planned for. But we had to redirect a substantial portion of the engineering team to [work on] infrastructure versus new features. That switched off things like extending gyms, it pushed out things we still want to have, like player-versus-player and trading. I’d say we’re about six months behind where we thought we would be.”
One of the new features that had to take a back seat to structural fixes is Pokemon trading, easily one of the most requested add-ons for the mobile game. Practically since launch, Pokemon GO players have requested trading, and that hasn’t changed a year later.
The good news is that Niantic seems to know how important Pokemon trading is to players, but the studio is not ready to add the feature just yet. The same is true for PvP, which the game neared closer to with the introduction of Raid battles and the overhaul of Gyms. Pokemon GO’s initial pitch videos made it seem like players would be able to battle each other in an online environment, but the game’s interactivity is more asymmetrical in nature.
PvP and Pokemon trading are also features that are largely dependent on the game feeling fair and (mostly) devoid of cheaters or spoofers. If Niantic can’t guarantee that the game is tamper-free then things could easily spin out of control once PvP released. Players already take issue with gyms being occupied by spoofers and cheaters, so how would they react if those people were directly impacting their experience.
For now it’s best to assume that Niantic’s focus is on its anniversary event and subtle improvements to the game. PvP and Pokemon trading haven’t been removed from the list, but those features have been pushed lower on the priority list. They’re also two trump cards that Niantic can play whenever they want to bring players back into the fold.
Pokemon GO is available now for iOS and Android mobile devices.
Source: The Verge