Around two weeks ago now, Niantic officially released Pokémon Go into the world, starting small with a release in Australia and New Zealand. Then they pushed the game over to North America, before pausing its release due to the incredible demand. Since then, the game has continued to roll-out across Europe and Canada and has been plagued with problems.
This of course begs the question: Could Niantic have handled the release of Pokémon Go better?
The answer to that isn’t as simple as a “yes” or a “no”, though I’m sure many of you frustrated with the downtime could easily answer “yes”. While Niantic have been doing their best (we can presume) to squash bugs, fix server issues, and keep the game online, there are a number of factors to take into account before we grab our pitchforks.
First off, the launch of the game may have officially rolled out slowly, but thanks to several workarounds which appeared as soon as the game launched in various app stores, more than just a handful of users flocked to the game. In fact, there’s a high chance that those desperate enough to get the game would have – I can attest to that, as I’m one of them.
Sure, the game launched in Australia and New Zealand, but with the APK being released online, and the simple-ish way iOS users could access the New Zealand app store by creating a New Zealand-based account, more users than expected likely flocked to the game from hundreds of other countries causing tons of strain on servers which aren’t even in their country of origin.
From here, the North American launch added an extra influx of users, which of course crashed servers causing more of a headache, so Niantic did the best thing they could in this situation and paused the game’s roll-out. As you’d expect however, this was met with disappointed and angry fans, which likely caused the team to receive pressure from executives to get the game out as quickly as possible to avoid any more disruptions.
As we all know by now, the roll-out once again began in Germany, then the UK, then over the weekend we saw the game land in over 20 other European countries as well as Canada. Of course, demand was once again higher than expected and the servers became unstable.
So to answer the question, could Niantic have handled the launch better? Possibly.
In my opinion, they could have prepared for launch better by extended the game’s “Field Test” across more than just Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and the US. Perhaps hitting Europe for a month would have helped prepare the game for the massive influx of users? Or even opened up the Field Test to more users? Obviously I’m just spit balling here as clearly the Field Tests provided enough information for the developers to decide to launch the game. But the way I see it, it just wasn’t enough.
However, in reality nothing could have prepared Niantic for the amount of people who jumped into the game unofficially.
Now, I’ve seen many posts online flaming Niantic for not doing their best, saying that they should “just buy more servers,” or “hire more developers,” and while that seems like an easy thing from an outside perspective, it’s not easy at all. For the most part, getting more servers online takes time and will need to be configured correctly in order to ensure things are, for the most part, working. What’s more, the majority of this work will need to be done remotely.
As for the other option of hiring more staff, well the hiring process isn’t as simple as just pulling some random programmer off the street and sitting them in front of a desk and asking them to “fix it”. Chances are, the hiring process at Niantic, specifically for Pokémon Go, will take weeks and there’ll be a fairly in-depth process because of the game’s ties with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. Even then, when a new programmer is taken on, they can’t just dive in and start mashing the keyboard, they’ll need to learn the development process and the code, which is another long process.
I think the main problem users are having with the game and Niantic is the lack of communication from the developers. Understandably, they’re not sitting around doing nothing as they watch their bank balance tot up (despite what you may think), in fact they’ve probably hardly slept since the game’s launch trying their best to keep everything as stable as they possibly can. Could Niantic do a better job at PR? Most definitely, but when it comes to the actual game itself, it makes it hard to really determine whether things could have gone better.
Although numbers haven’t been officially released, there are enough statistics out there to show that the game has been adopted rapidly by millions of users, as the game’s popularity has soared past that of some of the world’s biggest social networks. And while things haven’t gone to plan for Niantic thus far, I personally think they’re trying their best to keep things running smoothly, no matter how frustrating it is when the servers don’t play (Poké)ball.
It’s easy to sit and spit out miraculous solutions for Niantic from the comfort of your couch. In reality the game has been available for a little under two weeks, and has already become the fastest rising app in US history. The developers have likely been working all hours to keep things running as smooth as possible, and that’s the reality here.
Could Niantic have handled the launch of Pokémon Go better? Honestly, I think they’ve done the best they can considering.