Some Pokémon Go maps in jeopardy as Niantic admits to blocking 'scrapers'

If you want to find Pokémon in Pokémon Go, you'd better go back to the crowdsourced Pokémon Go maps.

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Pokémon Go maps like Pokévision remain down as Niantic blocks access to the APIs that power them.

If you’ve come to depend on Pokémon Go maps like Pokévision to catch Pokémon, bad news: developer Niantic has essentially confirmed that they’re going to be blocked from now on.

In a blog post on Thursday, Niantic said that Pokémon Go maps like Pokévision simply consume too many server resources. Blocking those sites and related apps allowed Niantic to proceed with rolling out Pokémon Go to new markets, like Latin America.

“As some of you may have noticed we recently rolled out Pokémon GO to Latin America including Brazil,” Niantic wrote. “We were very excited to finally be able to take this step. We were delayed in doing that due to aggressive efforts by third parties to access our servers outside of the Pokémon GO game client and our terms of service. We blocked some more of those attempts yesterday.”

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Niantic says that blocking tracker Pokémon Go maps like Pokévision resulted in a dramatic reduction in server resources that could be dedicated to Pokémon Go.

There’s still nothing stopping aspiring Pokémon trainers from using crowd-sourced Pokémon Go maps, and we’ve rounded up some of the best Pokémon Go maps here. But Pokémon Go maps and apps that use “trackers” to locate Pokémon tap into the Niantic APIs themselves, essentially appearing to Niantic as if they’re everywhere at once. This gives players with tracker apps an apparent advantage, as they can find Pokémon in the wild extremely easily. 

Niantic seemed to imply that Pokémon Go maps that tapped into its APIs not only unduly stressed its servers, but also were essentially cheating.

“It’s worth noting that some of the tools used to access servers to scrape data have also served as platforms for bots and cheating which negatively impact all Trainers,” Niantic wrote. “There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but the negative impact on game resources is the same.”

The problem, of course, is that the way recent Pokémon Go players played Pokémon in part depended on trackers. A “Nearby” feature of Pokémon Go that showed the type relative distance of nearby Pokémon has been broken, forcing players to either wander somewhat aimlessly or use trackers to help find Pokémon in the wild. Niantic promised that they were “actively working” on the Nearby feature, but offered no timetable for fixing it. 

Yang Liu, the developer behind Pokévision, explained his rationale for creating the Pokémon Go map site based on trackers in a long post on Medium. His argument? If Niantic won’t supply a solution, the people will. 

“As almost 3 weeks have passed by, the in-game tracker is broken,” Liu wrote. “People had a temporary solution in Pokévision, but we knew, and everyone else knew, this wouldn’t be permanent. We didn’t make Pokévision to spite you, Niantic — we made it so that we can keep everyone playing while we wait patiently.”

Pokévision remains shut down at Niantic’s request, Liu wrote, including a personal request from John Hanke, Niantic’s chief executive.

What this means: It sounds like Niantic has objected to the spread of trackers for two reasons—trackers consumed an inordinate amount of its server resources, preventing them from being dedicated to new regions; and simply because they were, in its view, cheating. We don’t necessarily agree, as Pokémon Go maps that used trackers could also be used by the disabled, or by parents trying to help a child, or any number of other reasons. For now, however, it appears that Pokémon Go is hobbled without this key feature, and without third-parties to support it in the meantime.

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