I’ve been playing Pokémon Go for a few weeks now and, I hate to say it, absolutely loath the changes that the game maker, Niantic, has made since launch.

Supposedly Pokémon Go! is a “free to play” game. However, Niantic has made several changes that look suspiciously like they’re forcing players to spend money if they want to successfully move up the ranks.

One of the most recent changes was that they made it much harder to catch Pokémon. In the first week or so, as you progressed through the ranks, it became easier and easier to catch low level Pokémon. A recent code update flipped that on its head. Now as you rank up, it’s becoming hard and harder to catch any Pokémon, even the extremely low level ones.

I used to be able to catch level 10 Pokémon using just one pokéball. Now, I’m level 12, and it takes 3 to 4 pokéballs to catch a level 10 common Pokémon. From what I’m reading online, it only gets worse as you get higher in the ranks. I’m seeing stories of people who are spending 40 or 50 pokéballs to catch a single Pokémon. Now of course, that’s if the Pokémon doesn’t flee from the encounter!

That’s right! In addition to making it harder to catch Pokémon with the pokéballs, Niantic has also increased the odds of a Pokémon fleeing from the encounter. So, now you’re spending more balls to maybe catch a single Pokémon.

How is this a cash grab? Well, there are only 2 ways to get pokéballs. You can collect some at PokéStops, 3 or 4 at a stop if you’re lucky. Or, you can BUY them! dun dun dunnnnn

Of course Niantic’s response would likely be that because you can get pokéballs for free at PokéStops, then it’s not a cash grab. Sure, sounds good. However, what do you do when you live in a rural area, like I do, where the nearest PokéStop is several miles away? I can’t bounce between multiple PokéStops like a city dweller and just collect pokéballs all day. No, I’m lucky if I can get to a PokéStop once or twice a week. So, the only way for me to get sufficient PokéBalls to have a solid chance of leveling up, is to spend money on them. That is seriously not cool and makes it less likely that I will play the game much longer.

Other sketchy changes Niantic has made include removing the built in tracking system, the so-called Pokémon footsteps, while simultaneously shuttering 3rd party apps that had Pokémon radar capabilities. They’ve changed the scan frequency from 10 seconds to 20 seconds, which makes it near impossible to find a Pokémon while driving (The Boy plays while I drive). They also adjusted some of the stats for different Pokémon.

Throughout all of this, Niantic has been suspiciously quiet. They make all sorts of harmful updates without providing any sort of reasoning. Their outbound messaging is non-existent. I think players would respect the changes more if Niantic just explained why they were making them. Or at least give gamers an idea of when other promised features might appear. cough cough – trading and battles – cough cough

All in all, Niantic is doing everything they can to ruin what started out to be the best game of the year. Each step they take makes me question their objectives. Unfortunately, they have zero incentive to restore the elements that made the game so fantastic originally, their cash grab is unrestricted.

Hopefully all of this backlash starts to impact Pokémon’s owner, Nintendo. If Nintendo begins to comprehend how much Niantic is ruining the Pokémon brand, maybe they’ll push Niantic to right the ship and listen to the players. Until then, I’m going to sit back and watch Niantic set itself on fire.

In the long run, I don’t really care. I can live without the app. But, The Boy thought Pokémon Go was the greatest game ever. Now, after these recent changes, he hasn’t opened the app in 2 days and is saying that he’s done with Pokémon forever. Have I mentioned that he has a YouTube channel dedicated to Pokémon? He’s a passionate fan who has lost all interest in the brand. Are you listening Nintendo?