From the very start in July 2016, Pokémon GO has been a source of joy for its players. However, as new “Pokémon Trainers” tried to scour the world for Pokéstops and Gyms, many of their journeys ended up on private property. Or, they’d be out on “semi-public” property, such as parks, way later than permitted.
Fortunately for those disturbed, a massive class action lawsuit filed in late August 2016 has been settled and, as of Friday, finalized. Pokémon GO developer Niantic is being made to comply with measures to reduce the nuisance for homeowners and parks.
In the settlement, Niantic is legally obliged to follow a number of guidelines in order to reduce nuisance for homeowners and, interestingly enough, public parks for at least three years. Most of these are just centered around removing “POI”s, or “points of interest” such as Pokéstops and Gyms.
However, the most interesting change may be the in-game enforcement of park hours, should those in charge of the parks request such. It seems this will turn off Pokéstops and Gyms whenever the park is closed.
Their required actions are as followed:
- At least 95% of POI removal requests must be addressed within 15 days, and will be fulfilled if a POI is within 40 meters of a “single-family residential property.” The removal most occur within five business days of being acknowledged and agreed to.
- Niantic must “maintain a database of complaints related to nuisance or trespass and requests to remove a POI, for a minimum of 1 (one) year from the date of the complaint.” Niantic must use this data in order to prevent putting new POIs on these properties.
- A form must be put up on the Pokémon GO website for removals of POIs on single-family residential properties.
- Raids will have a brief pop-up asking players to “be courteous to others and respectful of their real-world surroundings.”
- “User reviewers” for potential POIs will direct users to use more scrutiny in making sure POI don’t end up on private property, including “neighborhood parks.”
- Niantic itself must review a “statistically significant percentage of new POI submissions” to make sure this is enforced, though they can either use staff or a contractor.
- Niantic must include an in-game mechanic for requesting and enforcing park hours.
- In the rotating in-game warnings that appear when you load into the game, one will be included that reads: “Be courteous to members of real-world communities as you play Pokémon GO.”
According to the initial California filing, the plaintiff argued that “Niantic had designated properties as Pokéstops and Pokémon gyms without seeking permission from property owners and with flagrant disregard for the foreseeable consequences of doing so. ” The lawsuit sought to defend:
“All persons in the United States who own property (i) the GPS coordinates of which were designated by Defendants, without authorization, as Pokéstops or Pokémon gyms in the Pokémon Go mobile application or (ii) abutting property the GPS coordinates of which were designated by Defendants, without authorization, as Pokéstops or Pokémon gyms in the Pokémon Go mobile application.”
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The New Jersey-based plaintiff’s initial complaints began when strangers were “lingering outside of his home with their phones in his hand.” One Massachusetts complaint allegedly reported 15 such visitors over the course of a few hours. The Albuquerque, New Mexico house most known as a part of the show Breaking Bad, which is now a private property, was “besieged” by players.
Most interestingly, “Niantic placed at least three Pokéstops within the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.” The discovery prompted the museum to advise players against playing within the property.
Fortunately for many of those affected, Pokémon GO hype died down quite a bit after its initial months. Some of the complaints had to do with the game’s lack of content, while it seems many former players just got bored.
However, the game is alive and kicking; since launch, the game has added Pokémon trading and trainer-to-trainer battles. Their most recent major content update included a new “Pokemon Go Rocket” gameplay mechanic and faction. This new non-playable parallel to Team Rocket includes battle encounters with a chance to catch a less-powerful “Shadow Pokémon,” and possibly to “purify” it. The game also regularly holds special themed catching events as well as “Community Days,” and it often rotates what Pokémon are available via raid.
Players less afraid of being called a nuisance can still play Pokémon GO on mobile devices.