John Hanke on the first year of Pokemon GO

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.