One of the biggest features (if not the biggest feature) that was introduced with the launch of Pokémon GO last year was the game’s ability to draw data from Google Maps in order to replicate the real world in the app so players could travel to areas in the game by traveling to those areas in real life. It’s arguable that one of the things Pokémon GO‘s success was contingent on was the accuracy of the maps provided by Google, which were, more often than not, pretty spot on a lot of the time. Now, however, Niantic has decided to change the source of the game’s maps, which may end up being better or worse, depending on the players.
According to Polygon, Niantic has begun the shift to using OpenStreetMap instead of Google Maps to determine the game’s in-game maps. The biggest difference between the two sources is that OpenStreetMap can be changed by anyone, so it is up to the players to replicate an accurate representation of the world inside the game. This could be helpful for those who live in more rural areas, so players can insert landmarks for Gyms or PokéStops that weren’t there with Google Maps. On the other hand, you run the risk of groups of players creating fictional areas for their own benefit. Since it would be difficult to confirm the existence of every fictional area created by players, it would fall to other players who could physically visit the location to determine if the area is fictional or not and decide whether they want to edit OpenStreetMaps to delete the area or not.
Polygon reports that the shift to OpenStreetMaps has taken place in various countries across Asia and South America, with the United States just recently starting to make the shift.