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Half of Pokémon Go players used PokéVision before shutdown, creator says

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Mapping tool dev takes aim at Niantic after going dark, leaving players stranded

After a trying weekend that saw the dismantling of two major Pokémon tracking systems for the game, Pokémon Go players are lashing out at the developer Niantic — and that now includes Yang Liu, creator of the now-defunct, popular tracking tool PokéVision. In an open letter to Niantic, Liu cited his site’s high profile shutdown at the developer’s request as a reason for the community’s backlash, affecting more than 11 million daily users and changing the game for the worse.

Liu grew up as a huge Pokémon fan, he wrote, and the nostalgic Pokémon Go captured him from the get-go, just as it has a reported 100 million other users thus far. But the free-to-play game suffered from server issues at launch, and its in-game Pokémon hunting system became unusable shortly thereafter. These events inspired Liu to launch PokéVision, a real-time Pokémon location mapping service.

"We made PokéVision not to ‘cheat,’" Liu wrote. "We made it so that we can have a temporary relief to the in-game tracker that we were told was broken."

That’s contrary to Niantic CEO John Hanke’s belief, according to an interview he gave last week. His dissatisfaction with third-party mapping services led directly into PokéVision going dark Saturday night.

Liu continued to address Hanke and Niantic directly as he explained that PokéVision’s popularity was attributable to a glitch that showed all "nearby" Pokémon as the same unmeasurable distance away from the player.

"People had a temporary solution in PokéVision, but we knew, and everyone else knew, this wouldn’t be permanent," Liu wrote. "We didn’t make PokéVision to spite you, Niantic — we made it so that we can keep everyone playing while we wait patiently."

By "everyone," Liu meant the 50 million unique users who used the service at least once, as well as 11 million daily users, according to his own metrics. Numbers for Pokémon Go’s daily users overall vary, but our sister site Recode pegged the count at 9.5 million not long after its stateside launch. That’s surely grown as the game grew to become the App Store’s biggest downloadable title ever.

Pokémon Go’s user ratings on the App Store and Google Play store have fallen since PokéVision closed "out of respect," and Liu wrote that he and many other members of the game’s community feel that’s due to a lack of trust in the developer. That PokéVision shut down just after a controversial update that rendered the game’s nearby Pokémon tracker useless didn’t help matters, he said.

Half of the player base of Pokemon Go stopped by — and they didn't do so to "cheat."

"I may be biased in saying that PokéVision being down had an impact on the amount of negative ratings, refund requests and outcry on social media — but could it be true?" he wrote. "Nothing has changed between the time the in-game tracker broke and PokéVision went down. Could it just be possible that the tracker — no matter if PokéVision made it, or Niantic made it, is something that players desperately NEED — not want, but NEED — in order to play the game?"

There’s no concrete answer to that question. PokéVision is still down, and Niantic promised improvements to come for what remains of Pokémon Go’s tracking system. Dissenters online and in user reviews will continue to rage against the developer until the next distraction comes along — like, say, another player claiming to own the impossible to find legendary Pokémon, Articuno.