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Niantic CEO John Hanke Talks Pokemon Go’s First Year

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Pokemon Go, the wildly popular augmented reality game where players chase virtual Pokemon through the real world, is celebrating the first anniversary of its launch amid suggestions that its appeal is fading.

The free app, which first rolled out in the U.S. and Canada last July, quickly sparked a global phenomenon, breaking records as it was downloaded more than 10 million times in its first week.

Following the announcement of various in-game and real life events celebrating the anniversary, Niantic CEO John Hanke sat down with The Verge to talk about the game’s first year, includinga six-month development delay due to the huge success of the game, for-profit cheaters, and more.

During the interview, Hanke admitted that the game’s massive popularity forced his company to divert resources just to keep the servers up and running. “That switched off things like extending gyms, it pushed out things we still want to have, like player-versus-player and trading,” he said.

Because of the shift in priorities, he stated that Pokemon Go was about six months where they thought the game would be.

“We lost probably six months on our schedule because of the success of the game,” Hanke said. “Really all the way through November and December, from launch onward we were rebuilding and rewiring infrastructure just to keep the game running at the scale that we were running at.”

Hanke also admitted that Pokemon Go‘s initial poor communication was partially because there wasn’t a consensus between Niantic, Nintendo, and the Pokemon Company on how to proceed with app development. This lack of communication obviously frustrated many players and contributed to the massive drop of popularity that occurred towards the end of the last summer.

In terms of cheating, Hanke talked about how there are now “actual commercial entities” that advertise ways to level up players’ profiles and advance in the game, which received enough interest and revenue from Pokémon Go players to become “real businesses.”

You can check out The Verge‘s full interview here.

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