Hackers Taking Over Gyms, Making it Almost Impossible to Take Over
Now we move to a completely separate issue, but one that’s very much impacting the game all the same. One aspect of Pokémon GO that’s been kind of nice is that most “normal” players who play and train their Pokémon with any consistency can take over gyms with enough determination, strategy (with type-matching) and potions/revives. Defending gyms rely on AI who can’t really do anything besides stand there and move-mash, and with six Pokémon at your disposal and the advantage of type-strength and dodging, you can do pretty well at many gyms.
However, thanks to a number of hackers who spend their time warping all around the world, racking up insane amounts of XP and ultra-high CP Pokémon, some gyms can be almost impossible to take over. Right now, if you’re in the level 33-40 range, there’s a good chance that you’re a hacker, given the sheer amount of XP you would need to reach those upper levels, XP that you should physically not be possible to get this soon after the game’s launch.
This is particularly a problem in Asia, where after the Japanese launch, Chinese hackers were warping across the water and taking over gyms with high level Pokémon and bragging about it online. But it happens in all regions, and I’ve seen this happen in the US near me as well, as I just can’t believe some of these gym leaders have reached level 35+ legitimately and just so happened to have found a Snorlax nest to get enough candies to have one that’s 3,000 CP. Like, come on.
While the PokéStop problem probably requires a pretty complex solution, there has to be some measure of anti-cheat in place to prevent hackers from squatting on gyms and blazing through levels that should take weeks to achieve. I’ve seen some accounts banned, but this problem does not seem to be going away. In the next few weeks as more players level up legitimately, it may soon be hard to figure out who is hacking and who isn’t just from their level and Pokémon CP, so that’s why a detection system will be more important than ever.
Pokestops Are Disappearing, Even Without the Owner’s Request
Pokemon GO trainers are noticing a large number of Pokestops have recently been removed since the last Niantic update. This is concerning to some players, who are now having to travel farther just to get Pokeballs and other items thanks to stops near them disappearing. Why are these Pokestops disappearing? Is there any way to get them back?
More and more frequently, it seems that Pokestops are being suddenly removed. On Reddit, _TD3_ posted the following photo that his public library shared:
Prior to the Pokestops’ removal, _TD3_ wrote that lures were constantly on and the library was enjoying increased traffic from trainers’ coming to visit. The library even offered free charging stations to encourage players to come by. The library director sent a complaint to Niantic, asking for the stops to be returned.
The same thing is happening in South Carolina, where the State House became a Pokemon GO hotspot until all the stops were recently removed. The South Carolina Department of Administration and the Department of Public Safety both said they had not requested the stops’ removal. Even South Carolina’s governor tweeted Niantic, asking for the restrictions to be lifted:
.@NianticLabs South Carolina always welcomes everyone to our Statehouse. We ask that you lift any recent #pokemongo restrictions!— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) July 29, 2016
According to players on Reddit, it doesn’t take much to have a Pokestop removed. In fact, just one complaint might be able to get a stop taken down, players on Reddit are suggesting. Niantic may also not be verifying if the complaints are coming from owners or operators of the Pokestop locations.
Redditor ultrasuperman1001 wrote that he’s in a rural area, and one of his neighbors had a gym in his back yard, when it was supposed to be across the street. “He sent a request asking for it to be moved to its correct spot (he even said in the additional comments ‘don’t delete it please just move it’) and they just deleted it. The next closest gym is 50 km away.”
Some Pokemon GO users suspect that recent lawsuits may be playing a role in Niantic’s quick response to removal requests. A resident of New Jersey, for example, has filed a class action suit against Niantic, Nintendo, and The Pokemon Company, claiming the game profits off people entering private property without permission, including his home. You can read the lawsuit filing on Scribd here.
Pokemon GO has a support page where you can request the removal of a Pokestop or gym. This page does not specify why a Pokestop can be removed. However, Ingress has posted a list of reasons why a portal can be removed. This is relevant to Pokemon GO because Niantic developed and runs both games, and used the same portals for creating the original Pokestops and gyms. According to Ingress’s website, a stop can be removed if it’s on private residential property, at an elementary or secondary school, is a duplicate, or the location no longer exists.
These reasons still don’t explain why Pokestops are being removed that don’t fall under any of these categories. In addition, players have noticed that some Pokestops are being removed while their Ingress counterpart portals have remained. For example, Redditor Korben_Reynolds noted that four gyms and 21 stops were removed from a cemetery at the owner’s request, but the Ingress portals are still in place.
For a very brief period of time, Niantic accepted submissions of new gyms and Pokestop locations. But now that option is gone. Instead, owners of locations where Pokestops were removed are resorting to submitting a complaint to Pokemon GO, either by tweeting to Niantic Labs on Twitter or filling out a complaint form on Niantic’s support page here.
It’s unknown yet if any of these complaints have received responses or if Pokemon gyms or Pokestops have been reinstated. But it’s definitely worth a try if your Pokestop was removed. The Pokemon Go subreddit has mentioned in the past that a user claimed he filed a report using ingame support and had a few Pokestops and gyms added to his small town. Another Redditor reported he did the same and got an email back saying they would respond once they decided what to do.
One theory currently circulating is that Niantic is going to get more revenue by giving businesses an option of paying to become Pokestops, and this is why some stops are being removed. A couple weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Niantic is indeed looking into having “sponsored locations” in Pokemon GO where players can go to pick up virtual items. This was already done in Ingress, and John Hanke, Niantic’s chief executive, said that sponsored locations will be announced in the future for Pokemon GO too. If this happens soon, that could be a reason why some Pokestops are being removed at a faster pace.