Last week, Niantic Labs CEO John Hanke, the creator of Pokémon GO, hinted that certain services that helped players locate creatures within the game may be shut down. He did not wait long to act.
On Saturday, one of the more popular services, Pokévision.com said that it was “currently unavailable.” When asked if the site would be down indefinitely, Pokévision co-founder Yangcheng Liu responded “it possibly could be.” He declined to comment further and would not say if the company threatened legal action against him or his site.
Another Pokémon-locating service, PokeHound.com, displayed a cryptic message on its website noting that “We tried our best 🙁 – Check Twitter for updates.” The company shut down its Twitter account over the weekend, but not before posting a screenshot of an email presumably from Niantic that displayed its terms of service.
After launching what would become the most popular mobile game of all time, Niantic is cracking down on services that users employed to achieve the main goal of “catching them all.” In Pokémon GO, players move about the physical world and try to capture virtual monsters that appear on their smartphones.
In an interview last week, Liu said that Pokévision saw an explosion of usage with 27 million unique users over five days despite numerous outages. He built the free service, he said, because it was “hard to play the game in its current form.” At the time, the so-called “footsteps” tool, which allowed players to see nearby Pokémon and their relative distances, was broken.
Niantic discontinued that feature on Saturday in an update sent to users, which led to plenty of online criticism. It didn’t stop there, however, as the company began blocking third-party access to its servers, according to PokéBliss.com.
“Well, it’s not looking pretty,” the site said in a Facebook post. “Turns out our code has been fine this entire time, but they’re blocking the servers. We attempted a proxy list but for some reason that’s not connecting either.”
Sites like PokéBliss and Pokévision collect data from the Pokémon GO servers – an apparent violation of Niantic’s terms of service– to create real-time maps of Pokémon locations. Most of those services were free, though PokeHound charged $5 a week for access.