Why Isn’t Niantic Communicating More?

lh_pokemon_go_niantic_communication_head-scratchYou recently released a video game in a very hot genre. Augmented reality games are only behind in buzz to their cousin, virtual reality games. The title you launched is part of a multi-billion dollar property, one of the biggest and most accessible franchises in the world. Millions and millions of people download it to the tune of 75+ million in a few weeks. The mainstream media of the world cannot get enough of it, featuring the game in every way possible from public interest pieces to if it bleeds it leads. What do you do with this incredible crossroads of success? If you’re Niantic, the company behind the phenomenon of Pokemon Go, you go dark, apparently.

More is the keyword. John Hanke has done a few interviews after the wild success that caused Nintendo’s market value to skyrocket before analyst and investors took the time to do a little research Nintendo clarified to everyone (Japanese PDF) what’s up. But none of what Hanke discussed holds much water. Sure, he’s mentioned various features, but constantly with a major caveat. That said features are being discussed internally for consideration. Why be so coy? Why shy away from social media and limit blog posts? Why have such an amazing success, one that routinely causes server outages and delayed international launches, and not discuss the short-, medium- and long-term plan, including upcoming features and bug plans?

We MMO gamers are used to outages at launch and it’s clear that Niantic didn’t expect the unprecedented success of Pokemon Go. I mean, no one did. That’s why it broke App Store records. But how poorly they anticipated it is another post entirely. Now that it’s happened everyone, players, analysts and some casually interested parties, are wondering what’s going on? How is Pokemon Go going to continue its trajectory? Why wouldn’t a business discuss this, you ask? There’s two likely reasons. First, the company may not be well versed in your average crisis management. After all, Niantic Labs spun off of Google as one of its more adventurous endeavors, never a core line of business. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is nothing short of a crisis. Continued server problems, especially while roll outs persist, piss off current players and kill engagement for newcomers. Both horrendous outcomes to the game and its bottom line. Second, Niantic Labs currently lacks the resources to get ahead of the problem, server and communication wise. The recent job postings we discussed support this assertion.

lh_pokemon_go_niantic_communication_sad_pikachuWhich is it? My previous experience as a community manager of a successful title has me putting the most money on the latter. The insane success has left the company scrambling for resources, and perhaps talent, capable of dealing with the scenario. Niantic could very well be so inundated with issues that it is ignoring its own crisis management plan. If it at all had one. Lack of resources is absolutely no excuse for leaving the community high and dry. First order of business should have been to announce a slow down to the global rollout. Even further than the delay that disrupted Japan’s release. That plan lacked a concrete goal and did nothing to help the issue. Once players are capable of routinely playing the game Niantic should move to discuss correcting bugs and major complaints before new features. Yet, we, the Pokemon-loving community still have no idea what’s going on with Niantic Labs and our beloved augmented reality game.

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