Last week, John Hanke, Niantic CEO had a long interview with The Verge, detailing his perspective on Pokemon GO’s first year.

This article is essentially a TLDR version of the interview, with a bit of editorial on the end.

For full comprehension, we suggest you read the entire article at The Verge, but the key points are listed below. And before you ask, Niantic is still planing to implement Trainer Battles (PvP) and Trading, they just haven’t gotten to it yet.

Hanke on the first 12 months of Pokemon GO

  • Pokemon GO is roughly six months behind schedule in terms of features and functionality, mostly due to the utter shock the team experienced at release

“I’d say we’re about six months behind where we thought we would be.”

  • From June to December 2016, a big part of the engineering team was working on rebuilding the infrastructure, which made it hard to introduce new features and forced them to temporarily stop development on features like player-versus-player and trading

But we had to redirect a substantial portion of the engineering team to [work on] infrastructure versus new features. That switched off things like extending gyms, it pushed out things we still want to have, like player-versus-player and trading. I’d say we’re about six months behind where we thought we would be.

  • If they could go back in past, it would be great if they had a bigger team at launch. They really weren’t expecting that they’d be forced to spend so much time rebuilding the infrastructure.
  • As far as public communication goes, there are a few important takeaways:
    • Early on, The Pokemon Company, Nintendo and Niantic had no real consensus on how to communicate with players on Reddit, Twitter, etc
    • Niantic is used to being very communicative and very open with their players (Ingress mentioned), but it was a new process for Nintendo and The Pokemon Company, so it took time to get to a point where it is now
  • Niantic has dedicated resources to prevent cheating, but they are not really focused on it right now:

There are people working on that that could be working on features, but they’re not. It’s a fraction of the team. It’s not as if half of the team is working on that. It’s significantly less than that. But there is a chunk of resources that we devote to that.

  • In Hanke’s opinion, Gyms and Raids is the most important update they made to the game, as it introduced a second game loop (besides Pokemon collection)

Our thoughts on the interview

We’re quite positive about the interview!

The interview confirmed a lot of things that were speculated earlier, explained why and how mistakes were made in the past and finally shed some light on the TPC-Nintendo-Niantic love triangle.

Once you wrap your head around the fact that it took them almost 6 months to rebuild their infrastructure, the delay of player-versus-player and trading feels completely understandable.

We are slightly disappointed that more resources are not currently dedicated to prevent cheating, but there is a silver lining to this: we expect that the upcoming PvP and Trading features will be designed with local connectivity (Bluetooth, NFC) in mind, which will completely disable GPS spoofers from participating in them.

  • Jason

    I am excited for PvP and trading both.. rather see either of those than gen 3.. I know they had a lot of issues early on but they have gotten better and I hope that that trend continues

    • And with the quarterly update schedule, we can only hope for at least one of those, I would prefer trading before gen 3 comes… Or some where near

    • Zapmeister

      It’s going to be hard to reward people for their victories in PvP. If you give them anything, then two friends will be able to grind away ad infinitum to build up an arbitrary quantity of that reward. Maybe there will have to be some minimum time elapse between battles (similar to the raid pass system). Not that I care, since I have no friends 🙂

      • Higher_Ground

        I wonder if they’ll just have a ranking somewhere. In that case, there’d be diminishing returns for beating the same person over and over again.

        If they give out stardust or XP, I can totally see people finding ways to abuse the system.

        It’s quite possible the reward will be in the victory alone (and probably a badge).

        I also think it’s going to be a little lackluster compared to traditional pokemon pvp. The real time nature means it’s going to be probably twice as laggy as currently fighting a gym if both people’s responses have to go through the server instead of just the one.

        Without a decent reward and the current battle mechanics they’re not going to be nearly as fun as they could be.

        Still, they need to start somewhere and the more they iterate it the better it will likely become.

        • Higher_Ground

          also, while I have a lot of revives and potions, it might be a hard stretch for some to use those resources for anything other than raids (and gyms for coins)

      • Jason

        Honestly as long as they have the stats (wins and losses) thats the main thing I care about probably will do a badge for winning so many battles as well.. Never really thought about them giving rewards for it I just think it would be fun to have.. But I do agree they probably can’t give big rewards if they do give any or they could maybe do like you said and make it so you can only earn so many rewards from PvP per day but still can battle

    • Leonard Pointer

      By the sounds of things PvP is going to be later in the year. I hope Gen 3 launches on week commencing 24th July. Just after the Go Fests.

      • Higher_Ground

        yeah personally I’m most excited for Gen 3 because it gives me a lot more to do in the game without the unknowns that come with trading and pvp

    • Higher_Ground

      I think we’ll see one of those (but not both) before the end of the year. I do wonder how much time/effort they will devote to additional gym changes or if they’ll just move on to something else.

      • Jason

        Thats true still main thing I want is tweaked gym system and rewards before anything else.. hopefully after all this anniversary stuff they work on that.. was reading up on the newest information with Go Fest and the in game stuff for people not going sounds like a pretty big thing so probably a lot of resources going towards that right now

  • Marcus Elmore

    Do not listen to John Hanke ever. He is completely delusional as far as time frames go. Also he barley plays his own game so duh they arn’t devoting many resources to stop the cancer that is spoofers. This article basically says the exact same thing that the first ever trailer for the game said. We are just over one year in, where are the features? A big gym defender (raid boss) that’s your grand master plan? Give it a rest Hanke!

    • Higher_Ground

      I pulled this gem of a quotation from a different source, with regard to Hanke’s “vision” for Pokemon Go:

      “My heart is really with events, and that’s something I really want us to try to solve in 2017,” he concludes. “It’s complicated, though, to do them at the scale that Pokémon Go demands. But, to me, that would be the best demonstration of the vision of this company, which is all about playing games together, outside, with other people.”

      They’ve got a goal in mind (large social gathering game) and they’re going to try and shoe horn PoGo into that kind of game. That also harkens back to your point about the original trailer – which seems to still be the goal, as opposed to a game that’s fun for people to play outside of Times Square.

      • Marcus Elmore

        He’s not a gamer. He got lucky and landed the Pokémon title to overlay on I’d prized possession, ingress. What gamers want and what this venture capitalist wants are two completely different things. Don’t get me wrong Chicago should be fun, but you know what else would be fun, a company that actually knows how to code better than a computer science intern. I mean the game literally either thinks I’m driving or just doesn’t show any Pokémon around me or it says the gym is under attack when it’s clearly not. Smh

        • Higher_Ground

          Yeah I just left a rant on the other article about gym glitches. It’s too hot outside to waste my time with bugs & glitches for paltry returns.

          It’s obvious a lot of people are enjoying the game more than ever but you can put me squarely in the opposite camp. I think my enjoyment probably peaked months ago and lately an accumulation of annoyances just makes it not worth the hassle.

          Sucks, because I’ve sunk more time and effort into this than any other game (mobile or not) in the last 10 years.

  • vegetano1

    Bring back the Prestige gyms(this was the best “second game loop”)!! with the unique pokemon rule,.. or i want my money back!
    Pokemon Go is completely changed after 1 year,.. iets boring,.. no competition anymore,.. [insert sad face]

    • Leonard Pointer

      It’s a strange new system to say the least. A Gym system that gives you coins only if you are defeated. You could hold lots of gyms but if you lose them all on the one day, well tough luck. 50coin maximum. In saying all that, at least this new system gets rid of the death by Blissey issue. The new gym system is a pain for those who had gyms locked down and were gaining their 100coins a day. I consider that a good thing and I was one who gained at least 70 to 100 coins a day during the winter. There should be a five coins a hour defending gain with a 100 coin maximum per day to encourage defending. As it is it only encourages attacking gyms late on in the day. You wake the next morning to your 50 coins and…….. Nothing till late the next day.

      • Zapmeister

        You’re only about the 10,000th person to make these points, and yet there is no official acknowledgement of the backlash. As an aside, I think the “death by Blissey” issue you mention could have been solved by allowing the controlling team to “train out” the highest-cp defender and/or by introducing the unique defender rule.

        But we will never see the old system, nor any variant of it again, because Niantic have spent too much time and money on this new one. They’re never gonna abandon it, even if they realize what a huge mistake it was. Which they apparently don’t. Just my 2c.

        • vegetano1

          They prob also made alot of money with the old system,.. ;p and now iets sheit,…. XD

          • Higher_Ground

            I really like this quote and I think that future interviewers need to take him to task with it:

            “Last year has funded us, you know, indefinitely, really,” Hanke says.

            It means they literally do not need to worry about money for keeping the game afloat. So if they’re slow to release things or simply refuse to acknowledge them, maybe it’s because they know they don’t have to.

        • Higher_Ground

          But we will never see the old system, nor any variant of it again, because Niantic have spent too much time and money on this new one. They’re never gonna abandon it, even if they realize what a huge mistake it was. Which they apparently don’t. Just my 2c.

          Yes, this entirely. They won’t backtrack at all. The best we can hope for is a tweak to the current mechanics. You can only tweak it so far, though.

          It’s probably why they should put more focus on beta testing big updates and actually listening to the feedback.

      • vegetano1

        I am not really talking Coins and or Stardust,.. it was fun over here,. there were fights going on for specific gyms and there were no 10x Blissey gyms here,.. now you can’t train(can you even get that medal still?) and you can’t check all teams gyms to see what new mon’s where updated,… anyway,..

      • Higher_Ground

        I’d prefer a reward mechanic that tapered down to zero after a set amount of time – though much longer than the current 8hrs 20min.

        Way too many of my gyms are taken down within minutes of me placing a pokemon. It’s really quite frustrating to take down a gym with 6 pokemon (all of which have been in there for 24+ hrs) and then see your work obliterated within 3-5 minutes by someone else who noticed you were busy putting in the effort to take the gym.

        So with that in mind, I’d prefer a system where you got 10 coins initially for placing the pokemon, and then something like 5 for the first hour, 4 for the next, 3, 2, etc. It could actually just taper down to 1 per hour and I think that 24 coins per day for a remote gym with no action is more than plenty.

        It’s hard to put a cap on the coins but I think it’s ultimately necessary to prevent people from hogging too many gyms. The other obvious option is to simply limit the number of gyms held at once to a relatively low number.

        • Higher_Ground

          I guess there’s fears of people simply swapping the same gym back and forth ad for coins.

          FWIW I don’t actually care how many coins other people make, as long as it doesn’t create a problem with how many coins I can make. So if people are farming for coins, as long as it’s not by knocking me out right away or hogging all the slots, I don’t mind. The only reason I support the cap now is to discourage anyone from taking 10-15 gyms in one area to the detriment of all the players around them.

  • Zapmeister

    Off-topic alert and apology.
    Does anyone know why the shop page has been blank for over a day now?

    • Zapmeister

      Oops, as you were. Rebooting fixed it. Sry.

  • Mandy Kota

    Looking forward to these features in this order: trading, pvp battles, breeding.

    Also would like to note: In all console releases, when an opponent pokemon is defeated and the next one is coming up, there was the “would you like to change pokemon?” option. Can we please have that in Pokemon Go as well?

  • Reagan Choi

    The anniversary event was bad because they’re 6 months behind, so they just made a small 6-month anniversary instead of what we think of as the one-year anniversary!

  • Thomas

    The gym upgrade is a good thing.
    Much better than the old elitist gyms. If you had spoofed your way to 10 perfect IV Blisseys I understand why you like the old gyms. But a game like that isn’t fun for most of the players. And that’s who you want to appeal to. You want a playerbase (around 80% of the players) that is happy with the game, and that buys coins every now and then. The elitist 3% of the players may buy more, but often their bad attitude and competitive mindset isn’t welcoming to new players.
    Raids are great. Much easier to go to raids to get great pokemon than to find them in the wild. At least for the average player. There might even be a bit of progression through the raids (unless you are already lvl 40 with 10 tyranitars).

    The combat is too simple though. I hope it will be improved somehow.

    • Zapmeister

      Raids are OK, and they could keep them, even if they reverted to the old gym system (which they won’t). Those old “elitist” gyms could have been fixed (as discussed elsewhere) to make them more accessible to casuals and less exploitable by spoofers.

      The new gyms, on the other hand, take control out of the players’ hands (you now rely on other people to evict your defenders) take away the goal of building tough pokemon (any old gym defender will do the job) and don’t make any sense in terms of team rivalry. They’re a train wreck, pure and simple.

    • vegetano1

      The new Gyms are boring and yes non-competitive,.. iets a game,.. with teams,.. iets was fun,.. and iets weird how Niantic completely changed the game while people who played all year long are being cut of from there gameplay,..(not everywhere there were 10x Blissey gyms, not over here anyway) i am seriously considering a lawsuit to get my money back,… because iets kind of ridiculous, where do you draw the line updating a game or completely changing a game,.. but i love my mon’s,… XD

  • Daniel Doiron

    Gym change was good, COIN change was NOT.

    Capping 50 per day is greedy, and the raids are getting harder to do as there is less active players, FTP players with 1 pass only, and mystic/valours now do private groups for being A-holes….

    Oh the anniversary sale was a joke and lol.

    They made over a billion + in revenue, hire more jesus, barely over 30 people working at niantic.

  • Zapmeister

    Just thought of an awesome way to make this game interesting again. Max revives and normal revives don’t drop from pokestops anymore, nor are they raid rewards (unless raids are made a lot rarer, which would be a good idea in it’s own right, imo). You get these things (in small quantity) when you level, and normal revives could also be bought at the shop (but would be fairly expensive). Sounds horrible, you say – but is it?

    The idea is that, when revives are rare and precious, battles will be more interesting because you’ll be trying to not let pokemon faint. Strong pokemon will be valuable again, because it takes longer to wear them down to the point where they’re in danger. Shops will be more interesting, because how to spend your coins is one of the few decisions you need to make in this game, and now there’s another valuable commodity to buy. What do you think?