Breaking News Emails
Enjoy playing "Pokemon Go" but getting a little tired of all that pesky effort it requires? Well, now you can pay someone to walk for you, drive you around, play the game on your behalf, or even just sell you their entire account.
The meteoric success of the mobile critter craze has spawned a cottage industry of Pokey-preneurs, all of whom are ready to help you get farther and faster — or appear to do so — for a price.
High-level players have started to sell their accounts on eBay and Craigslist, for up to $1,000 apiece. The listings say the accounts include rare creatures and hard-to-get items. Besides the profit motive, some players claimed the week-and-a-half old game was already passé.
"Lost interest in the game," wrote one unenthused Level 18 Charizard-chaser.
For those still addicted — but without the time or energy to go hunting all the time — one new site purports to do the walking for you.
“Imagine a world where you had the flexibility to do what you wanted to do … and not have to move to collect Pokemon,” proclaims PokeWalk on its website. The site claims its walkers will patrol the neighborhood with your phone to catch Pokemon on your behalf.
When contacted, the site's owner said the service was "real" and had investors, but insisted on remaining anonymous, fearing a backlash from the gaming community.
Ads have also been popping up on Craigslist for professional Pokemon trainers who will log into your account and chase the creatures for you while you, say, relax at home with takeout.
One Pokemon trainer named Arthur touted his "deep love for the fantastical creatures,” describing himself as a “high-level” gamer who, perhaps more importantly, possesses his own external battery pack.
Another trainer, a high school student in Westchester, New York, said, "I have played Pokemon all my life and I wanted to share my knowledge with others in need,” while acknowledging he was "just a guy looking to make some cash on the side giving Pokemon players some tips and tricks."
Then there are the Pokemon chauffeurs.
"Do you need someone to drive you around to different Pokemon shops? Or to different gyms? Or just turn on your lure and sit safely in an air-conditioned leather-seat car?" wrote one enterprising Pokemon fan on Craigslist.
Meanwhile, another provided group rides across New York City in a Chevrolet Suburban that offered "plenty of space" and "plenty of charging outlets" for $20 an hour per person.
The ethics of the entrepreneurial services have stoked an online debate as fierce as a battle between "Team Mystic" and "Team Valor."
"You go girl!" wrote one fan, on the Instagram feed of a Pokemon-tattoed trainer named Ivy St. Ive who advertised her services for $20 an hour.
"People pay for karma coaches, upgrade their $700 phones willy nilly," wrote the fan. "Why not? If there are people willing to pay, can't hate on someone for cashing in."
Others were less generous.
“Dear Asteroid, it's time,” chimed in another commenter.
It seems everyone wants to cash in on the brand. Nintendo, which partially owns the Pokemon franchise, saw its stock value double this week to $42 billion — then drop by 14 percent as profit-takers moved in to capitalize on their gains. Naturally, some of the players responsible for Nintendo's rise in fortune feel they should make a few bucks, too.
However, some of their methods break the terms of services for the game — as Pokey trainer St. Ive discovered. "I don't want to break any laws and I definitely don't want to get banned from "Pokemon Go," the game I've been waiting for since 1997," she wrote on Instagram, noting that she withdrew her services after friends notified her about the risks.
For their part, the game's developers are very clear on their policy regarding such side-stepping. "No cheating," says San Francisco-based Niantic on its website. "Don’t do it. Play fair. 'Pokemon Go' is meant to be played on a mobile device and get you outside to explore your world!"
Google, whose Gmail app is frequently used to sign up for 'Pokemon Go,' also issued a stern warning, saying in a statement that users are "not allowed to create Gmail accounts by automated means or buy, sell, trade, or re-sell Gmail accounts to others."
"All in all, it's a fascinating experiment on how video games can infiltrate into social circles," said Scott Steinberg, trends expert at Tech Savvy.
And he's not surprised, or bothered, by those exploiting the game for their own profit.
"With a game as popular as 'Pokemon Go,' there will always be a way to capture money — not just monsters."