Pokemon Go players upset after update disables Pokemon tracking apps

Pokemon Go players who rely on third-party tracking and mapping apps to help them find and catch Pokemon more quickly and efficiently — considered by some to be cheats — are crying foul after those apps were disabled by a recent update to the game.

Company says 3rd party apps interfere with its 'ability to maintain quality of service'

The developers of Pokemon Go don't approve of third-party apps that help users 'cheat,' and the latest version of the game disables them. But other apps that don't tap into the game's code can still provide an edge for players. (Laura DaSilva/CBC)

Pokemon Go players who rely on third-party tracking and mapping apps to help them find and catch Pokemon more quickly and efficiently — considered by some to be cheats — are crying foul after those apps were disabled by a recent update to the game.

The augmented reality game is designed to send players into the real world, hunting for monsters called Pokemon who appear onscreen when users hold up their smartphones in various locations at various times of day.

The newest update disables a glitchy "footprints" feature that let players know how far away Pokemon were appearing. Some third-party apps such as Pokevision tapped into those apps to create maps showing all nearby Pokemon and how long they would be there. The creatures would otherwise have to be found by walking around until you stumble upon them.

Some users say tracking apps make the game more fun, but Pokemon Go's creator disagrees, and considers them to be cheats.

John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, the company that makes Pokemon Go, had told Forbes in an interview last week that he was "not a fan" of such apps, adding, "They might find in the future that those things may not work. People are only hurting themselves because it takes some fun out of the game."

Since the new update, apps like Pokevision haven't been working.

Many users have taken to the internet to complain, and the game's Apple App Store rating for the current version has dropped to 1.5 stars. Overall, its rating for all versions is three stars.

One user, called Drkside9, wrote in a review on the app store, "I can't imagine what Niantic is thinking right now.… Now I feel as helpless as everyone else trying to find the more elusive Pokemons in my area."

Some players threatened to quit the game.

In a post on Facebook earlier today, the Pokemon Go team said the footprints feature was removed because it was "confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals." It said it would keep users informed as it worked to improve the feature. In the meantime, it said, "We have limited access by third-party services which were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users and to bring Pokemon Go to users around the world."

In the meantime, Pokemon mapping apps that don't rely on tapping into the game's code still work.

For example, PokeMapper, developed by Canadians Phil Scheihauf and Owen Scott, relies on user-generated reports of Pokemon sightings.

Jonah Bliss, the team's New York-based director of community, said that since the update, PokeMapper has seen more traffic as players migrate over from apps that are no longer working.

He said mapping apps are appealing because they provide access to neat information that users otherwise wouldn't have, since the game only provides a very localized perspective of a few blocks.

With PokeMapper, he said, "Now I can see that one town over there's this cool Pokemon I haven't captured yet, so it's worth me driving there over the weekend to try and capture them, or oh, I can see my friends in Vancouver have totally different water-type Pokemons that we don't have here. It adds like another kind of layer to the game, I think."

He said he understands why Niantic considers apps that tap into the game and offer more specific data from the game itself to be cheating, but he added, "As long there's been video games, there's been people trying to hack them.… Some people want to be able to finish the game as quickly as possible."