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Pokémon Go mapping sites were major resource suck, Niantic says

To bring the game to Brazil and more, online tracking tools had to go

Unofficial Pokémon Go mapping tools were a major strain on Niantic’s servers, the developer said, preventing the game from expanding to further countries worldwide. That’s why the company shut off popular Pokémon location-tracking sites’ access to its data, according to an update on Niantic’s website about the game’s recent service maintenance and resulting controversies.

"We were delayed in [bringing 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," CEO John Hanke wrote in the post. "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."

Since blocking developers of tools like the popular Pokévision from getting into its servers, resources required to run Pokémon Go have experienced far less strain. Hanke wrote that launching the game in Brazil and other territories today is a direct result of mapping sites going dark over the weekend.

"The negative impact on the game's resources is the same"

Less successful have been Niantic’s efforts to block developers of bots and other cheating programs from using its data. The same tools that mapping site programmers use to access Niantic’s location-based API empower coders intent on creating bot programs, Hanke said. Shutting out cheaters means cutting off those with more "innocuous" intentions, although a recent attempt to do just that was thwarted by the bot-developing community.

"There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but the negative impact on game resources is the same," Hanke said.

Hackers who go after Pokémon Go’s systems and its staff’s social media accounts — like Hanke’s — are even trickier to take down. Hanke referenced them in the post, too, referring to this past weekend when hacking group Poodle Corp publicly took over his Twitter page.

"We don’t expect these attempts to stop," he wrote. "But we do want you to understand why we have taken the steps we have and why we will continue to take steps to maintain the stability and integrity of the game."

That’s the highest priority for the Niantic team, which is attending to various glitches and working to improve the game’s removed, mourned nearby Pokémon tracking system. The in-game meter showed a Pokémon’s distance away from the player in a measure of footprints. That service, which had been broken since just after launch, was effectively taken out of commission in an update issued this weekend, but Niantic promises that it will return.

The post is a testament to the developer’s renewed efforts to communicating with Pokémon Go fans, and Hanke invites their continued feedback.

"We look forward to getting the game on stable footing so we can begin to work on new features," he wrote.

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