In response to Niantic breaking silence on HearUsNiantic movement and Remote Raid changes

Today, Dot Esports published an interview with Michael Steranka (Pokémon GO director) and John Funtanilla (Pokémon GO senior producer), an interview where Niantic leads finally speak about the #HearUsNiantic movement and Remote Raid changes.

I will first share the statements given by Mr. Steranka and Mr. Futanilla, and then I will share my personal opinion on the matter, as someone who has been involved with the game from 2016, and who has lived through enough World of Warcraft controversies to have something to say about this.

Just before we dive into these statements, Niantic is sticking with their guns, they will not revert the change, and they will be pushing the company’s vision of outdoor’s game play. Remote Raid Passes are not coming back.

P.S. All statements are quoted as published by Dot Esports. 

Michael Steranka’s statement

“Yeah, we’ve definitely taken note. It’s hard to ignore, right? I’m personally being tagged a lot in a lot of these tweets. So we read everything, and we see everything. It’s one of those things where we never want to go out and respond to two calls like that, unless we have something to actually show for it. And for us, for the rest of this year, we really feel like actions will speak louder than words.

And we’ve been working really hard as a development team to put together a huge slate of new features that players we hope will enjoy over the course of this year. So, personally speaking, I’m pretty sure I used to do more remote raids than 99 percent of your readers.

That was a very, very painful decision to make even for me. But when we look at sort of the overall health of the game, and the type of behaviors that remote raid passes were introducing, it just really didn’t align with the kind of experience we were trying to create. And I can honestly say even for me personally, it became sort of an unhealthy way to engage with the game. I would just sort of throw money at Poké Coins so that I can spam legendary raids as much as possible.

And we’re talking about legendary Pokémon; they’re supposed to be the epic epitome of all Pokémon content. And this is something that players including myself are doing over a dozen times a day, for some people over 100 times a day. And so that’s something that we really honestly let go on a little bit too long and ultimately needed to course correct.

So again, super, super painful decision that is not something we took lightly. But it’s something that we felt is necessary for the longevity of the game and to also ensure that we’re not really compromising on our mission.

And so yeah, we have no plans to directly address any of the HearUsNiantic things recently, because we’ll be sticking with the decision that was made. But instead, we’re hopeful that players will see a lot of the hard work that the team has been putting into this game for the past year because I think what we have coming out in 2023 is gonna really blow people away.”

Michael Steranka, Pokémon Go director

John Funtanilla’s statement

“I would want to add one thing… just to echo Michael’s sentiment of coming onto this team, everyone is incredibly passionate about the game. And I feel like sometimes that’s lost, that we’re confident in our decision. And basically what we want to do is what Michael is saying, is that we really want our actions to speak louder than words. But everyone liked it. There’s a lot of Michaels on this team, everyone’s playing the game, everyone wants to do remote raids, but we kind of have to understand what we feel is best for the player experience.

I really want that. I’m passionate, it’s like leveling up super fast of everyone on the team. So that’s something that we see every day. Everyone lives and breathes this game.”

John Funtanilla, Pokémon Go senior producer

A response to these quotes

First, if you reached this part of the article, thank you for reading. It means a lot, especially in these times, when we are hitting motivational all-time lows. 

With that being said, let’s ride the proverbial mammoth.

What baffles me in these statements is not the lack of belief in the company’s vision – there’s plenty of that to throw around – it is the product managerial blindness to an obvious, accidental, and incredibly successful, pivot in their product.

That was an unnecessarily long sentence so let’s expand.

  • Pokémon GO was never designed to be a play-from-home game. But COVID-19 happened, and Niantic did a miracle.
  • You bloody maniacs actually pivoted a GPS game into an enjoyable experience which could be played from home, while walking, across the globe, everywhere.
  • The game reached peak usability, the peak enjoyment. And it was all accidental, a knee jerk reaction to a pandemic you couldn’t expect.

In the mean time, you created a store product – the fabled Remote Raid Pass – which sold like crazy. You found the perfect product market fit. You were earning money, your player base was happy, and life was just rainbows and sunshine.

And then you decided to do the only thing the community asked you not to. You tried making us go outside to Raid again.

While quoting a detached-from-reality vision that’s probably a writing on an office wall somewhere in San Francisco, you pivoted away from your perfect product market fit, and angered 100 000 people in the process.

This is baffling to me. Why did you do this? Who is forcing you to believe in this nonsensical vision?

Your player base has moved on. The world has moved on. We do not want to play the game in the same way we did in 2016. We voted with our wallets to show you this.

This is undermining the fundamental principles of good business. Don’t change the working formula. There is no “vision” or “corporate mission” that will change the human nature – it is simply arrogant to assume so. 

People are people, and Pokémon GO players like walking and exploring to catch Pokémon, and Raiding from their couch. What is wrong with that?

To me, this is the confusing part honestly. Not the new Shadow Raids, or the “feature packed” 2023 roadmap. I get that, those are great, we should be doing those, this is all good and fine.

But the fact you had a perfect product market fit, and instead of building on top of it, you decided to walk backwards. Maybe your vision needed to change, not the game. The market told you what they liked.

Blizzard did this as well

Blizzard used to do things like this in the past, and the World of Warcraft player base still remembers their “You think you do, but you don’t” and their Do you guys not have phones? debacles.

But Blizzard has learned from their mistakes, and they managed to “course correct”. Blizzard is actually working with their community these days, and they are creating a better experience for everyone. 

Imagine seeing a video like this about Pokémon GO:

Sounds impossible? It really doesn’t have to be. The Pokémon GO player base has outlined the exact problems with the game, the only thing they want is for the developers to acknowledge their existence and honour their request.

Sticking to a decision that caused an online petition to be created and signed by 116 000 people seems like a wrong decision, and not a heroic leap into the visionary world of corporate America?

The players did a similar thing back in 2021, when almost 200 000 people asked you to keep the larger interaction distance active. Niantic caved and agreed with the change.

What is exactly different between then and now? Both things are making the game more accessible.

Organising Raids is a nightmare, and Legendary Pokémon are really not that great in Pokémon GO. They are simply not that big of a deal, and it’s the game’s design to blame.

Legendary Pokémon are the “epitome of all Pokémon content” in games where you can catch only 3 of them, but in a game where you have a metric tons of Legendaries, they simply aren’t that important.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, you designed the Pokémon GO experience so that you can actually CATCH THEM ALL, multiple times, Legendary Pokémon included.

In this world, an extra Mewtwo, an extra Rayquaza, or a missed Regidrago, are as exciting as drinking plain yogurt. There are 800+ other Pokémon to care about. This is not the case with other Pokémon games.

There is always an equally good attacker, or an equally good defender, which is much less hassle to obtain.

Parting words

I have little faith that this article will change the narrative that Niantic is currently pushing, but for what it’s worth, I wanted to share this. I’ve been around the industry for long enough to know that there are times when you just need to wait it out.

Niantic has thrown multiple balls in the air, and we still need to see where it all lands. Maybe we get Remote Raids back next year. You never know.

Thank you for reading and stay safe!

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Zeroghan started the Hub in July 2016 and hasn't had much sleep since. A lover of all things Pokémon, web development, and writing.

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