Niantic, the developers of Pokémon Go, have settled a lawsuit with angry homeowners who have had PokéStops placed near their property.
In 2016, several individuals filed class-action lawsuits against Niantic regarding Pokémon Go players trespassing on their property. Incidents included people peering through windows, blocking driveways, or even damaging property in order to catch Pokémon or take part in Pokémon battles.
In order to diffuse the situation, Niantic has made some minor changes to the game. The details of the settlement have appeared in court filings over the past few days and are awaiting approval. However, Niantic’s decision still leaves some major questions open to debate, the most important of which revolve around how virtual reality interacts with property law. As it stands, the positioning of the PokéStops means that people are regularly discovering strangers lurking around their homes attempting to catch Pokémon.
Under the new agreement, the developer has agreed to roll out new features that attempt to neutralize these issues. For example, if a homeowner complains that a Pokémon Gym or PokéStop is encouraging people to trespass on their property, Niantic promises to resolve the issue within two weeks. Furthermore, the developer has promised to maintain a database that will prevent new game features from reappearing near the location. In addition, municipal areas will now also be able to apply for similar sanctions. For instance, if a public park believes there is too much Poké-activity taking place, they can request for their location to be removed.
The company has also agreed to issue warnings to players about privacy and trespassing. Now, if more than 10 players show up for a Pokémon Go ‘raid’, they will be issued with a notification that reminds them to be courteous to others in their real-world surroundings. Although the court filings don’t reveal the details of the settlement, financial damages are on the table, including $1,000 for those named in the case. However, Niantic hasn’t released the specifics of the agreement.
Pokémon Go’s popularity raises many questions about the problems surrounding augmented reality location-based games. Although the initial hype has subsided, problems persist – for instance, gamers are continuing to take risks to catch rare Pokémon, there are still inappropriately located PokéStops, and trespassing on private property remains an issue. However, the settlement reached between the developer and the plaintiffs has helped to establish some codes for similar augmented reality games. However, a legal precedent for the treatment of augmented reality gaming remains unclear.