Niantic Talks Avatar Update, Hints at More Changes to Come

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In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Micheal Steranka, Niantic’s game director shared an interesting update on the widely criticised Avatar System update. The new character customisation system has launched as part of the Rediscover Pokémon GO promotional campaign, which introduced Biomes and the new AR mode as well.

Unlike Biomes, the Avatars update has faced severe backlash, with players revolting against androgynous looking characters, the wide number of bugs, and the plain ugliness of the new avatars. Niantic has already acknowledged the Community Feedback on New Avatar System, but we still haven’t had any substantial commitment to future change. At least until now.

Mr. Steranka shared the following when asked about the Avatars update criticism and what the company plans to do about it.

Niantic says this is the beginning of Avatar updates

Feedback to the character creator update this year was mixed. Are there still changes you’d like to make there?

Steranka: Absolutely. We knew that that was going to be a challenging one for us. Players have grown to love their avatars for the past seven-and-a-half years and anytime you change something like that, there’s a lot of risk involved – some people might not be happy with that, whereas others might appreciate us responding to the feedback over the years from players who felt our avatar system was outdated and that they didn’t feel like they could represent themselves like they can in other games.

A relatively accurate depiction of the new Pokémon GO Avatars shows dull look, strange body proportions, and unrealistic arm length.
A relatively accurate depiction of the new Pokémon GO Avatars shows dull look, strange body proportions, and unrealistic arm length.

We definitely saw a lot of feedback that players felt like it still didn’t match what they were hoping for. The team has been hard at work at looking at that feedback and we’ve already made some updates and adjustments, things like improving the different body proportions that you can have and different skin tones.

But I would say it’s just the start, we want to continue adding more to the feature, making it more diverse. My goal is for every single player in the world to really feel they can be represented in Pokémon Go.

To celebrate the 2022 Pokémon World Championships’ Galar theme, the following Galar-inspired avatar items will be featured in the in-game shop.
Old Pokémon GO Avatars, celebrating the 2022 Pokémon World Championships’ Galar theme

The other thing I would just share on this front is just how technically challenging that feature was for us to bring out into the market because we have this backlog of different avatar items and articles and clothing and poses, and those were all designed for two very specific form factors. Taking those dozens and hundreds of avatar items and applying it to much more customisable characters was very, very tricky for us.

But we have seen the feedback and have already been making some adjustments and and we have more to come.

Our commentary

As we said before, Pokémon GO’s Avatar change somehow managed to offend almost everyone who cared, and that needs to be addressed. Both male and female characters look outlandish, bloated, disproportionate and strange.

Niantic’s decision to overhaul the system is probably a great in technical terms, and as developers and engineers ourselves, we understand the technical challenges behind this change.

However, it must be said that players have been very understanding of the bugs that came with this update, and focused their feedback on what they consider to be the core problem: the new Avatars don’t look good.

We do hope that Niantic stays true to what they are saying here, and that they do fix the Avatars. 

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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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