I have never both loved and hated a game as much as I do Pokemon Go. Launching in early July, barely a day has gone by without me playing, at least a bit. Likewise, only a few days usually pass before Pokemon Go’s developer Niantic does something that seems almost vindictive against its own players, and idiotic in terms of maintaining what swiftly became the biggest mobile game of all time. With the latest update, Pokemon Go 0.37.0 or 1.7.0 on iOS, this trend has continued, adding something cool to the game (the buddy system), while also giving a firm middle finger to a large section of the Pokemon Go playerbase.
The specific item from the update that I’m speaking of is the limitations being placed on rooted and jailbroken devices. In case you aren’t up on the latest tech terms, rooting and jailbreaking your phone essentially frees them from restrictions that were put there by the manufacturer or OS developer. It gives you more freedom to do what you want with the device that you own, and it is perfectly legal.
Now, with the latest Pokemon Go update, those who have a rooted or jailbroken phone can no longer play the game at all. Well, they can, but they have to go through a bunch of pretty shady hoops to do so, installing secondary mods or having to dive into the settings on the phone, sometimes each time they launch the app. And according to some users even factory unlocked phones are impacted, meaning tons of international users and those who have a phone that is not directly tied to a carrier will be locked out. The bigger problem is that many users don’t even know that they have a rooted, jailbroken, or unlocked phone. Some of them come this way by default. These players are simply being shown the door by Niantic, and all in a futile attempt to curb cheating in Pokemon Go.
Sure, cheaters are a big problem, and Niantic should do what they can to take them out of the game. However, with the only player versus player interaction happening in the increasingly ignored gyms, they pose a much smaller risk than many likely believe. The other elephant in the room is that Pokemon Go is still essentially a broken game. We all marveled when the in-game Pokemon tracker crossed the threshold where it was broken for a longer time than it was working. We’ve now repeated that by about five times over, with any players outside the beta market of San Francisco still stuck with a completely broken and nearly useless tracker.
Those legitimate players are pretty much the only ones being truly impacted by Niantic’s decisions
These players have turned to third party mapping systems in droves, taking what would be a broken game and making it somewhat playable. However, Niantic has wasted tons of time going after these as well, taking down almost all of the most popular services, until only minor ones are left. These services fixed what Niantic broke, and instead of embracing them they have fought them the whole way, with regular players stuck in the middle.
In fact, those legitimate players are pretty much the only ones being truly impacted by Niantic’s decisions. A rooted phone is not a requirement for true cheating, such as GPS spoofing or bots. True cheaters will have a way around the new restrictions in just a few days, if not a few hours. They’ll continue on like nothing happened, but the thousands, or perhaps millions of people with rooted and jailbroken phones who don’t cheat at all will be impacted, and will either have to do some determined Googling, or they’ll just give up on the game. This seems to be happening in droves, with the Pokemon Go playerbase shrinking by significant numbers. They’re still way up there relative to other mobile titles, but with each cut that Niantic inflicts on their legit players it will shrink even more until there are few left.
I love Pokemon Go, I still play it nearly every day. However, I’m getting tired of these decisions coming down that simply make no sense in the grand scheme of the game. A player with a rooted phone poses almost no greater risk of being a cheater than any other, and yet they’re being hit hard with this latest update. Luckily they can stick to the old version for now, avoiding the limitation, but that time will end soon. Whenever Niantic flips the switch and makes this latest version of Pokemon Go a requirement, get ready for a flood of angry players. Of course, they probably won’t be Pokemon Go players for long if Niantic continues hitting them all the time for the crimes of others.