It’s no exaggeration to say that last year’s Pokemon Go Fest was a complete and total disaster. It made a ton of money – almost $6M on the second day alone – but the PR fallout was epic, as thousands of people who paid to attend couldn’t actually get into the event park and thousands more couldn’t connect to the game once inside thanks to overloaded cell networks. On top of the logistical nightmare, the event turned out to be a pay-to-win debacle too. When Niantic CEO John Hanke took the stage to calm everyone and apologize, he was met with boos from his own die-hard fans. A spokesperson later said the studio was “horrified” with the way the event turned out and refunded all players for their tickets (and then some). That didn’t stop players who’d paid to travel long distances to Chicago for the event from forging ahead with a class-action lawsuit, which Niantic quite recently settled to the tune of $1.5M.
Since then, Niantic has run several successful events of a similar magnitude to last year’s Chicago event, including a massive festival in Yokohama, and they’ve all gone well, which must surely give the company courage for announcing a series of summer events dubbed Pokemon Go Summer Tour 2018.
Back in February, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, tried to prevent Pokemon Go player-inflicted park damage by requiring ARG developers, including Niantic, to acquire permits before implementing games within the park. The county was subsequently sued by Texas Rope’ Em dev Candy Lab AR this past spring, and now, a judge has granted an injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinance until after the lawsuit’s been resolved, noting not only that it’s unconstitutional but nearly impossible to execute.
In happier POGO news, Legendary Pokemon are coming to Pokemon Go. Unlike other Pokemon, Legendaries cannot be put into gyms to defend, but they should make raids a little bit easier. Trainers at the Chicago event will have a set of challenges to meet, but players not attending also need to help out. PokemonGO Hub has a great chart for finding out when the events begin if you need a little guidance. On the way to legendaries, players can unlock bonuses to just about everything, from Star Dust to increased spawns.
It’s been almost a year now since non-expat Americans were able to play Niantic’s Pokemon Go. While we’re naturally seeing birthday rumors, the game’s unique position in gaming has led to continued lawsuit issues over AR and Niantic’s struggle with moderating its content.
Rumors of a shiny Pikachu are being linked with both a brief “one-year anniversary” line of code that was recently datamined and news that Niantic will release a “rare Pikachu” at ACM Siggraph.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit between Candy LAB AR and Milwaukee County that we previously reported has led to the two sides exchanging words, none more damning than those of the county:
Remember back in February when Milwaukee County in Wisconsin tried to handle the whole “Pokemon Go players are destroying parks and costing municipalities cash money to repair them” ordeal by requiring game developers, including Niantic, to acquire permits before implementing games within the park?
Agumented reality developer Candy Lab AR (of Texas Rope’ Em fame) plans to fight that ordinance. The studio has filed a lawsuit against the county in the US district court for Eastern Wisconsin, alleging that the ordinance violates and restricts the company’s “right to free speech” via regulation, is “unconstitutionally vague,” and holds companies legally and financially responsible for the actions of players on park lands, the last of which Candy Lab says would be “financially prohibitive.”
The county created the ordinance following destruction to the park by Pokemon Go players last year; it appears to require ARG devs to follow the same rules as geocachers when developing game nodes within the park. That boils down to purchasing a permit and carrying $1,000,000 in liability insurance for damages resulting from its players’ park use.
Last summer when Pokemon Go took off, so did the lawsuits from property owners who claimed Niantic was effectively encouraging players to illegally trespass on their land. We covered two such suits, one in Michigan and one in New Jersey, and there were more — and they’ve since been consolidated into a single suit seeking class-action status.
The U.S. District Court in San Francisco is now set to decide the case, The Wall Street Journal reports this week, in a move that will likely influence future augmented reality MMOs like PoGo.
“Residents of the Villas of Positano on the South Florida coast said hundreds of people began infiltrating the 62-unit complex, parking illegally and even relieving themselves in the landscaping during late-night visits to ‘catch’ virtual characters. Another plaintiff, a New Jersey lawyer, said at least five people knocked on his door asking for access to his backyard. In Michigan, a couple said a quiet nearby park became overrun once it was tagged as a location in the game, creating a nightmare for neighbors as players stormed the area, blocked driveways and peered in windows. […] The intrusions, the plaintiffs say, amount to negligence and trespassing by the game’s developer, Niantic Inc. They claim not only that Niantic is responsible for players who physically trespassed, but also that the placement of the virtual characters is itself a form of trespassing.”
Pokemon Go is the subject of yet another lawsuit: A Michigan couple is suing Niantic, Nintendo, and the Pokemon Company in federal court. The pair say that a Pokestop and Pokegym in the park next to their home has caused hundreds of players to invade their yard on the daily, destroying landscaping, peering into vehicles, and preventing anyone from sleeping. They petition the court in their class action to force Niantic et al. to block its GPS-bound virtual locations when they are on or near private property and share profits with private citizens who have been terrorized since the game’s launch.
In other Pokeymans news,
This one goes out to all the people who are still obsessively playing Pokemon Go after giving it a one-star rating. You show ’em!
- We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this one: A fellow named Jeffrey Marder of New Jersey is suing Nintendo and Niantic for enticing people to trespass on his property (and the property of anyone else in similar circumstances) and profiting from it. It’d be tempting to laugh at it because “get off my lawn,” but as commenters have wisely pointed out, a case like this could effectively set an interesting precedent defining just who owns the virtual space overlaying real space. Shadowrun, anyone?
- Following the shutdown of third-party map trackers with last weekend’s patch, the creator of the biggest one, Pokevision, penned an impassioned letter begging Niantic to reverse its position on the apps. Yang Liu claims his app saw 50 million unique users, “half of the playerbase of Pokemon Go […] and they didn’t do so to ‘cheat.'” He also overtly links the game’s plummeting user ratings this week to the death of the trackers.
- A Russian bank is now offering Pokemon Go-related insurance for people prone to accidents while playing the game. What could go wrong?
- This one’s pretty bizarre: There’s a huge controversy over whether a player in Ohio captured an insanely rare Articuno. Fakes are pretty easy, and Niantic’s initial statement suggests it was either a hack or a spoof.
Happy Friday! Please don’t die in 100 degree heat this weekend playing Pokemon Go, OK? We’d miss you.
- It’s all over, guys: Someone has already beaten Pokemon Go, at least in North America. You can go back inside now. Of course, he hasn’t caught all the rare ones yet — no one has.
- Apparently back in 2001, religious leaders in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa against playing Pokemon. The Telegraph reports that an ultraconservative cleric has renewed that fatwa as it applies to Pokemon Go, accusing the game of encouraging gambling and using symbols associated with Israel, Christianity, and polytheism.
- Pokemon Go is finally out in Japan on iOS and Android. Yay! Now Andrew will stop being sad. In fact, Japanese players are hopping on the bandwagon of ways to trick phone sensors into believing they’re moving (and therefore the game will hatch eggs and confer XP). And by bandwagon, I really mean toy trains.
- From CNN, there’s the story of an unnamed reporter who was jokingly called out by State department spokesman John Kirby for playing Pokemon Go during a briefing. Kirby was good-humored about it, even circling back at the end to inquire whether the reporter had caught one and apologizing for the bad internet.
- German activists are threatening Niantic with a lawsuit over Pokemon Go’s alleged violations of Germany’s famously protective privacy laws. Consumer advocates are upset over 15 clauses in the TOS, which (among other things) allows the company to share data at is chooses and binds players to arbitration in California. No doubt US courts will give the German public all the same consideration German courts give us, ja?