The good entrepreneur goes where the action is and right now it’s in parks, street corners, gas stations and even police stations all across the country, as Pokémon Go marks its official release in Canada and plucky money-makers are already offering their chauffeur services to game players not content to trudge around town on foot.
“Pokémon GO is now available in Canada!” says the much-anticipated release, “Discover and capture Pokémon all around you.” The “augmented reality” game for iPhone and Android devices became the top grossing app for iPhone after its release in the United States, Australia and New Zealand on July 6, and has become a legitimate worldwide sensation – even in Canada where tech savvy players have found ways to skirt the delay in access. (You may have noticed them over the past week in your neighbourhood – yes, that loose cluster of folks in your park, all staring at their phones in a focused and mildly bemused manner? That’s them.)
The game uses smartphone GPS location data to entice players to head around to their local landmarks designated as Pokestops and collect Pokeballs which are then thrown (with a swipe) to capture the floating Pokemon on your phone’s screen. Numerous Pokémon injuries have been reported as players end up falling off curbs, running into people (and things) and generally being less aware of what’s around them than they should be, causing authorities in the United States and Canada to issue public warnings.
“Are you about to step into traffic? Are you going to crash into someone or something? You could end more than just your game,” says the Vancouver Police in a recent statement. “It is very easy for any stranger to know your gathering spots. Make sure you go with a group, and that younger kids tell parents or another adult where they’re going.”
Police in Quebec City reported that two officers suffered minor injuries when their cruiser was hit by a car they noticed driving erratically. According to Const. Nancy Roussel, “The driver said ‘I’m sorry, I was playing Pokemon Go.”
A handful of individuals across the country have posted Craigslist ads offering Uber-like driving services to chauffeur around Go players during their quests to catch ‘em all. One ad by a UBC student in Vancouver says that for $25 an hour, he’ll drive players around in his Volkswagon Passat, with snacks and water to purchase along the way. “I’ve been wanting to raise some money for the BC Cancer Foundation,” reads the ad, “and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity!”
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Reports are coming in from around the world of robberies connected to Pokémon Go, including an incident in O’Fallon, Missouri, where armed robbers anticipated the arrival of players to a Pokestop in a local pharmacy parking lot and took advantage of a “beacon” feature on the game to lure in players.
“Using the geolocation feature,” says Missouri Sgt. Bill Stringer, “the robbers were able to anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims.”
Shares of Nintendo, owners of Pokémon Go, have risen by 50 per cent after the first week of release, reportedly lifting the market value of the company by $15 billion USD.