The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Pokémon Go and Server Problems

Pokémon Go Details

Like a lot of other people, I’ve recently become enamored with the new game Pokémon Go (an “augmented reality” game that encourages players to actively explore the real world to catch creatures known as Pokémon). And, also like a lot of other people, I’ve experienced a lot of issues with the game; given the explosive popularity of the game, the servers seem to be having trouble keeping up and people have experienced a number of different problems. Even Amazon’s CTO has run into some issues and offered support to the developers of the game, Niantic.

Though I’m having fun, the thing that’s been driving me crazy is that the game seems to freeze on me whenever I try to catch a Pokémon; I’d guesstimate that it happens about 80% of the time for me. While I don’t purport to know the intricacies of how the game was developed, I was thinking about what the developer could do to mitigate issues. One thing that came to mind was better error handling and communication.

Screenshot from older Pokémon game

A Pokémon fleeing in an older game

Many people, such as myself, are willing to forgive a lot during a rough launch period for a game this unique and exciting. What frustrates me, though, is how “in the dark” I am about the experience. Instead of blank screens, have Professor Willow (the character who introduces you to the world) show up with a perplexed face, and a message that the content isn’t available right now. Perhaps if the server isn’t responding when I try to catch a Pokémon, it could simply run away (especially given that the ability for Pokémon to run away in encounters has always been present in the series and is an easy out; I remember most Pokémon running away from me in the Safari Zone when I first played Pokémon Red as a child).

Users look for communication and clarity during their experiences. It’s not uncommon for problems to arise, whether you’re catching Pokémon, shopping online, or streaming a movie. But the way problems are handled is a critical differentiator; you need to know what your users are expecting and how they react to these issues. By anticipating problems, handling errors where possible, and providing communication, you can ease the frustration of users and ultimately improve user retention.

I look forward to a more stable Pokémon Go experience, but in the meantime, our office is next to a lake so I’m going to try to catch enough Magikarp to evolve a Gyrados. Go Team Valor!

-Matt Daughtry, Manager of Customer Success, Usability Sciences


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