Is Pokemon Go Discriminatory ?

I live in a beautiful part of the world. Near Dorchester, Dorset, in the very South of England. It's the home of the famous Victorian novelist Thomas Hardy, and inspired many of his writings. For those who know their history, the Tolpuddle Martyrs were held prisoner 10 minutes up the road from me.

We have lush green hills, amazing coastline, stunning views.

We also have terrible broadband speeds, dodgy cellphone coverage, and there is no Starbucks in town. 

When Pokemon Go hit the headlines in July 2016, Augmented Reality entered the public consciousness. They may not have known the words to describe it, but they had witnessed these small creatures magically appearing in their phone screens. It became a phenomenon and launched Niantic into fame, and in the frenzy increased Nintendo market cap by over $17bn.... Ahem, embarassingly Nintendo admitted that they only held a 32% stake in the Pokemon franchise, and an undisclosed amount of Niantic, and upon that, stock fell by 18% in the biggest drop in the company's history.

For those that don't know, the game involves collecting fantastical creatures called Pokemon. You play the role of a "Trainer" and have to capture a catalogue of Pokemon, some rare, some common. You can collect these from real-world locations and often the rarer ones appear, word goes round a community and there is a rush to capture them. You can collect items from "pokestops" - which are usually situated at local landmarks -pubs, coffee shops, places of interest. You can also join teams and try to occupy a Pokemon Training Gym (usually located at Schools, Churches, or other communal places).  The more densely populated an area, the more Pokemon you can find, the more Pokestops and Gyms there are.

This is the reason for my accusatory title. Living rurally, and having played - on and off - Pokemon Go for 8 months, I have no Pokestops near me, no Gyms. I never see a Pokemon "in the wild". My only course of action is to get in the car, drive to the nearest town, and see if I can find anything. WHICH I'M NOT GOING TO DO !

The whole point of this game is to encourage people to get out and about. Go for a walk, collect some Pokemon, improve your collection. Ultimate aim - and strapline "gotta catch 'em all". However, for those of us living rurally - you can't. Quite the opposite in fact.

So, is it discriminatory ? Arguably yes. People in a similar situation to me do not have an equal opportunity to progress in the game as, say, someone in downtown Manhattan, or central London. Tongue-in-cheek though this article may be, there is an underlying point, as mainstream adoption takes place, this kind of consideration must take place. It's a Customer Experience issue, my experience is worse that John in Sydney and Jane in Manchester. Obviously demographic data would suggest far larger audiences in cities than in ultra-rural locations, and that is important, but please Developers, we don't all conform to the same living situation and there must be ways of balancing the game mechanics.

Craig Rich
Feb 2017