Liko and Sprigatito screaming in Pokémon Horizons: The Series

‘Pokémon Go’ Just Took Away My Favorite Feature

Pokémon Go was the best thing ever to me when it first came out in 2016.

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It was like all my favorite Pokémon games in one. You could find them and catch them out in the wild, and you could take photographs with them. As someone with an interest in photography (but lacking the equipment and well, talent) I loved the game’s photo mode. From 2016 onwards, whenever I went somewhere new, I liked to snap a picture of a Pokemon in that area. Maybe I’d get a Lapras in the ocean or a Koffing in central London. You get the idea.

But now Niantic has, essentially, taken that feature away from the game. Previously, the photo function was accessed via “AR” or augmented reality, and you could toggle the AR function on and off whenever you caught a Pokémon. There was also an “AR+” feature which, in the words of Niantic, allows you to “interact with Pokémon in various ways in the real world.” I never used the AR+, it was too time-consuming when I was walking around catching Pokémon.

But now AR+ has become “AR”—yep, it’s confusing—and the new AR photo mode works very differently from the old AR. You have to look around a flat surface and your phone will detect your environment. From there, sparkles appear, and then footsteps, and you have to tap these before the Pokémon appears to you. And when it does it’ll be in a fixed position, so if you wanted to get a specific shot of (say) an Oddish in a flowerbed or an adorable Snubbull beneath a “Beware of the Dog” sign, you’re probably out of luck. Before, the Pokemon would also spawn in a fixed position, but you could easily maneuver the camera to the position you wanted. It’s a lot trickier now.

It’s saddening because the regular AR photo mode was, for me, the main reason for playing the game.  I enjoyed collecting different Pokémon but lots of the other gameplay was just lost on me, or I lacked the ability to do it. (You can’t really do raids in a small, isolated village—and Niantic doesn’t show much interest in rural players in general.)  Now I can no longer go for a walk and snap pictures of Pokémon as I go without breaking a stride. If I encounter something interesting and want to snap it, I’ll have to go through the rigmarole of panning my phone across a flat surface, tapping what appears, and walking around the Pokémon to get it in position. And if I want to take a snap of a new Pokémon from the comfort of my sofa … well, there are no flat surfaces in sight there, so I can’t do that at all.

The Pokémon Go community on Reddit isn’t happy either.

“Players can no longer photograph Pokémon casually as they go along” probably isn’t an issue Niantic cares much about, unfortunately. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small and insignificant option to take away. But I’m still disappointed. Rumor has it that eventually, the AR system will undergo a total revamp and incorporate AI (as long as it’s not generative AI, we’re fine) and I might pick the game up again then. But at the moment there isn’t really much of a reason to play my beloved Pokémon Go right now. I just wanted to photograph cute creatures!

(featured image: The Pokémon Company)


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Author
Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.