New Pokémon Go Updates Discourage Distracted Driving — But Could They Kill the Game?

If you want to know the reception by the media of Pokémon Go, just take a glance at the headlines:

“Pokémon Go player crashes his car into a tree” – USA Today

“‘Pokémon Go’ is Causing Car Accidents Across America” – U.S. News

“Playing Pokémon Go is becoming dangerous” – New York Post

Well, that escalated quickly. Among charges of luring children into dark alleys and corrupting the moral fiber of America, the new game has been demonized by the media for causing reckless driving. Could fears that the game will destroy society as we know it be justified?

The past and future of location based AR games like Pokemon Go
The past and future of location based AR games like Pokemon Go

New Things Are Scary

Perhaps not. Many of these news reports are found to be hoaxes. As the first game with augmented reality to gain such massive popularity, it should be concerning to the gaming community that the media has reacted so harshly to mobile game.The negative reception the app has received thus far is partially because it is a strange and new type of game for consumers.

People have approached playing the game in inventive and strange ways. Some fans approach the game as it was intended by simply walking to discover new monsters, filling their pokédexes, and hatching eggs.

But the internet is far too clever (and sometimes lazy) to stick to this method. Hundreds of businesses around the world offer “Pokémon Go tours,” in which drivers escort customers in buses, SUVs, or golf carts, coasting at just a few miles per hour so that customers have time to catch each creature they pass. Some users have discovered that they can hatch eggs by keeping them on a slowly moving ceiling fan, or on a turntable. Other gamers cheat the game by playing on their computers using GPS spoofing software.

However, there will inevitably be those crazy enough to try to “catch ‘em all” and drive a car at the same time.


Because of growing concerns about irresponsible drivers, Pokémon Go developer Niantec has responded by updating the game in several impactful ways. There are now several in-game messages discouraging distracted driving. Upon booting the game, one of several warning messages that can appear warns you to not play while driving. If the game senses that you are travelling at a high enough speed, a second warning message will appear, checking if you are driving or merely a passenger.

If that was the extent of Niantec’s changes, rational fans would not be upset. However, some other changes are causing players to quit in droves. At the beginning of August, an update changed the scan refresh rate from five seconds to ten seconds. This means that the game will “search” for nearby Pokémon at half the speed. People moving faster than 12.5 miles an hour may not see any critters at all. While some of these updates don’t explicitly state that they are designed to stop irresponsible behavior, but signs seem to point to that agenda.

Adding further to player frustration, there is no current system to track the location of nearby Pokémon at all. Cease-and-desists have been given to all third party sites designed to help players with tracking. While a new update for better tracking could be on the horizon, players are currently left with little information to track pokémon.

Many fans are convinced they are effectively being prevented from playing the game. There is no question that distracted driving is a huge problem. It is possibly a bigger threat than drunk driving. Regardless, is this way of handling it appropriate?

Recent updates can make progressing in the game extremely inconvenient for some players. Players with limited mobility will now have an even harder time playing.


One example of such a person is Youtube celebrity Boogie2988. He has been outspoken about his struggles with his weight, which leaves him immobile throughout most of the day. In a recent tweet, he stated: “Pokemon go is amazing… But it’s also like a cruel trick to someone as immobile as I am”. He was able to play with friends by driving from pokéstop to pokéstop. With the new updates. This may no longer be an option. There are certainly thousands of players with similar circumstances.

Can This Pokécraze Last?

Pokémon Go will eventually allow players to trade Pokémon

We are left questioning if Pokémon Go will survive for long without drastic changes and more communication from the developers. The influx of negative reviews from both Apple and Android users should be sending a clear message to Niantec. Time will tell if further updates can convince us to keep the game installed on our phones.

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About the Author

Cody Hill

Cody Hill

Cody Hill is a freelance blogger with an avid interest in emerging technology and video games. In his spare time, he enjoys filling his Steam account with games he will never play.

  • GENXer

    we loved the game when it launched and walked all over looking for Pokémon; but, now with all the nerfs to speed, spawns, tracking and number of balls needed [ to catch even the lowest level Pokémon being increased], the fun is gone. We don’t all live near multiple pokestops areas and have to walk for MILES in order to find even a few Pokémon. We don’t even have a gym nearby and have to drive a few miles to get to the nearest one. I like walking and looking for them but since the ‘updates’ I rarely find any and when I do its more snakes, pidgeys, geodudes and sand shrews….. We used to have a leaf area next to us but since they took it away we have 0 chance to find a rare now with out driving somewhere. Our incentive to actually walk around is now gone.

    • Cody Hill

      I’ve had the same issue. Same with most people I talk to! It really does seem like the game will lose a lot of players unless they make some major changes.

    • andysowards

      Yes me and the kids have definitely felt the decline in fun after these updates. It was hard enough to keep pokeballs before, now we constantly have none and most people aren’t going to buy more. It was fun while it lasted but they need to add new features, not mess up the ones that they hardly had in the first place that made the game fun in its simplistic form.