Mike Quigley: From a “hot” summer to the Future of Pokemon GO


In a really really long Intervie with Eurogamer  the chief marketing officer of Niantic, Mike Quigley gave his insight on the future of Pokemon GO…starting from the Past:

“The fire-fighting has ceased. Now, we can get back to developing core features.There’s no way to sugarcoat it, we were overwhelmed by how [Pokémon Go] took off,” he continues. “The success of the product caught us out of position in a couple of areas – we fully admit it. The summer was quite painful – no one slept much. But this has always been a marathon not a sprint. You can look back at Ingress and see that.

In a question about the lack of a “Community Manager” when the game released he answered that Niantic consists of 65 to 70 people and they want to double that number the next year since there are other things that need to be taken care of at the momment.

“We can look back and wish we had more resources for certain things, but we kind of weathered it and hopefully people say ‘oh, we are hearing from them more now, there’s more transparency’. And for what it’s worth, regardless of headcount or staffing, one of the reasons people weren’t hearing from us is that there were so many things going on with servers and stuff that was, frankly, distracting the company. We just wanted to make sure the game was still up and running. That took everyone and their focus to take care of things.”

They later discussed the fact that some accounts were accidentally found themselves with an Articuno. He explained that it was an early mistake that was fixed. They then talked on “killing” the third-party apps like Pokevision and Fastpokemap.

“They were just crushing us on the server side,” Quigley remembers. “I won’t say it’s a no-win situation but it’s a tough balance. You’ve got to keep fans happy but you also have to keep the core product accessible.

Some of the server outages back in July were a punch in stomach. For us, for fans, for The Pokémon Company too – it’s not a good signal for their brand. We’re very close to them and we have to do right by the brand, by our players and Niantic. That’s why we had to make some of those hard decisions like blocking third-party sites. It’s difficult but ultimately it’s the right thing to do for the life of the product.”

As far as the lifspan of Pokemon GO he refers to it as a MMO(Multiplayer Mobile Online Game) and not and not as just another Mobile Game:

“Yes, we looked at mobile game curves and yes we modelled some of this, although the initial curve was far higher than expected,” Quigley says when I ask about current user numbers. “As for how we modelled it, we’re trying not to get distracted by [headlines like] ‘There’s a huge fall-off! Pokémon Go’s dead!’. There’s a lot of those stories which have been written. We’re like, ‘guys, it’s just noise. We know what we’re doing, we know what we want to build. We’re listening to the community.

“But we are more an MMO than anything else. We have two week client sprints, two week server-side sprints. Every two weeks there’s new content or bug fixes going in the game. There’s key content releases we’re planning.

“I think our lifespan and curve may be quite different from a free-to-play mobile game – it may be more in a [World of] Warcraft vein just because of the type of game we are. It’s not about taking a bunch of money off the table and going. Monetisation has never been the focus for us. It’s about doing right by the brand and doing right by the fans.”

At this point he points how significant role the players have played in this experience and how important they are for Niantic. 

“The fans kept us going,” he continues. “We’d go out after a 12 or 14 day and see people playing – that was better than an adrenaline shot. Red Bull is great but fans kept us going,” he laughs.”And they kept us honest. They’re critical and they should be. There are expectations from two decades of Pokémon and expectations on Niantic to deliver a quality experience. The best part of the last year – because we’ve taken some lumps and the hardest part of working with [Pokémon] is the expectations – but for us it’s that we know we’re just getting started.”

Of course he (as everyone) has to answer for the TRACKER, the most wanted Pokemon GO feature. The Tracker has been the major obstacle in the relationship between Niantic and the players:

“Hopefully, over time, we’re going to build that trust with fans,” Quigley says. “And they may not always know it, you may not always hear from us, but we’re listening. We’re always listening to community feedback.People may have started to give up on Nearby,” he laughs, “but you know what – they never stopped telling us about how they wanted it and how much they missed it – and their frustration with us for blocking third-party apps. So, maybe it didn’t happen in the timeframe people wanted it but we are getting to it. Right now in small ways and soon in much bigger ways – we are making progress on our product roadmap, doing things which fans want.And there are things coming in the next several weeks… I think if you look back on this conversation on December 31st, or the 1st of January, what I’ve said will be validated. But even that stuff is still the tip of the iceberg – there’s a long road to go.The community does a good job of APK teardowns so some of these may or may not be known…”

Here we get a comment on data minersthat always reveal future findings like Gen 2 and Ditto:

“We’re aware. Sometimes we’ll tease things, sometimes not.There are things we have to test days, weeks, months in advance which might make the timeline hard to pinpoint – even for us,” he says. “We have a high quality bar, as do fans, as do The Pokémon Company. We’re not going to ship features until they hit that. And it’s software development – things slip, things happen sooner or later, whenever they’re ready. That may be a reason why you hear us say ‘yep, that got discovered but we’re not ready to talk about it until its ready for primetime’.”

Back to the tracker:

“As we get Nearby rolled out globally we know the feedback will keep coming, hopefully it meets some of the requests, we’ll continue to listen, and then maybe there’s a V2 of it that comes out. But the [global roll-out] is an early signal that, hopefully, makes people realise ‘oh they’re going to make up for this’ – because we know in terms of the capture gameplay loop how popular third-party services were.”

Of course the intrviewer asked on Ditto and the Legendary Birds:
-When will Ditto be available?
“Stay Tuned”
-Is there actually Plan for Legendary Pokemon;
“Legendaries are very important part of the franchise,” he replies, not entirely answering the question. “We do intend to release them so, yes. We do have a plan.””

The Interview ends with a future promise that in 6 to 12 months everything will be different.

“As new features start to release, hopefully time will show that yes, those things were in the works,” Quigley concludes. “Yes we released and were overwhelmed by server traffic and yes, I wish we had had trading on day one… but if you look back in six or 12 months then hopefully fans will see our iterative process in action. Because, ultimately, the fans are always the judge.”

More to Come…


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