Let’s Talk: Why Removing Shared AR is Against Niantic’s Values

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Today Niantic Support quietly shared on social media that the Shared Buddy AR function was going to be removed from Pokémon GO in the next game update.

I was tagged in this status by my AR friend JC, who also tagged in some of the most prominent AR photographers in the Pokémon GO AR community. The replies are what I expected, with many people responding with things like ‘who cares about AR anyway’, and even praise for removing a rarely used feature. Those of us who love AR have shared commiserations and upset, but we know we are a minority. The Pokémon GO AR Community have once again been left wondering if they particularly matter to Niantic, and why they would remove a fully functioning feature from the game.

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge that yes, the feature isn’t necessarily the most popular aspect of the game. The AR community in general know that we aren’t top of, well, anyone’s list really when it comes to game updates, but we are here, and we are people who love and play this game.

Secondly, if it isn’t broken, and it is something that is just quietly functioning away in the game out of the way, why remove it? Unless Niantic are planning to replace this with a better version (which I just can’t see happening as it hasn’t been updated since it was released), it seems an odd choice to just remove. Niantic are an AR company, and this is one of the few AR features in the game that people can utilise together. Many people argue that Niantic is too focused on AR, and yet here they are removing a pure AR experience. 

Thirdly, removing a social aspect of the game feels like it goes against Niantic’s core values of exploring and socialisation. This feature is something that trainers can do together, and it encourages exploration and adventure to find new cool spots to take photos in. I know many AR photographers who have met up specifically to use this aspect of the game, travelling great distances! Some of the most incredible AR photos I’ve ever seen have been created using Shared AR, from recreating epic battle scenes in the anime, to adorable moments of friendship between Pokémon.

Personally I’ve used it at in-person events with the friends I’ve met online, and it has been the coolest souvenir we could take away! Meeting up with people I’ve met because of Pokémon GO, to take AR photos together, is so very cool. It encourages the things that Niantic say they want to achieve with Pokémon GO, a community that gets outside to adventure together, so why?

I’d be very curious what the thought process behind this removal is, game optimisation presumably. Removing something like this might take up a little less space on your phone and the game might run a little smoother. Does it really have that much impact though?

I know many people will never have used this feature, and won’t care that it is gone, but the AR community will deeply miss it. We’ve asked for help before from Niantic when the Buddy AR animations broke in 2021 and unfortunately, they remain broken two and a half years later, with no acknowledgement of the issue from Niantic at any point. We have to admit, we feel a little neglected.

I’ve taken photos with friends who lived hundreds of miles away, and can treasure them forever, and I had hoped that in the future I’d get to do that again with friends from even further afield but alas, right now it seems like a dream of the past.

Getting to see our Pokémon in the wild, together, isn’t that what we all dreamed of when we first discovered this amazing world of Pokémon? Isn’t it what we all imagined with Pokémon GO, Pokémon in the real world? It’s why I’ve loved AR so much since the game was launched, it is all my childhood dreams come true. But I guess now it’ll be a solo activity, and the only group AR photos will be created with editing and trickery. I’ll miss you Shared AR, even if the majority won’t.

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Turtwig obsessive, real life Psyduck, Pokémon GO AR Photographer, found footage horror fan and Pokémon GO Hub AR Queen

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