‘Pokemon Go’ Fans in Rural Areas Struggle to Play Game

Rustling green leaves signify areas where Pokemon are likely to appear. (Niantic)

Rustling green leaves signify areas where Pokemon are likely to appear. (Niantic)

Pokemon Go players who live in rural areas are finding it increasingly difficult to play the game, and it’s not clear that this problem will be going away anytime soon.

At the game’s recent Comic-Con panel, the issue was raised to CEO John Hanke that some players find there are very few Poke Stops or gyms in their area. Hanke said that these players should travel to a place with more Poke Stops, a comment that seems to imply that updating the game for those outside of major cities and towns is not on the top of Niantic’s priority list.

This has lead to some frustration in the Pokemon Go online community, with players in rural areas feeling that they may have to give up on the game entirely.

“I’ve been saying this for a while now: the game is just not made for those of us in rural areas,” one Reddit user wrote. “We aren’t their target audience, we’re barely even on the list.
This nonchalant attitude towards an objectively subpar experience that we get is just icing on the cake.”

These users also point to the game’s official trailers, which made it appear that Pokemon could be caught basically anywhere. In actuality, it is very difficult to play the game regularly outside of large cities or towns.

That is in part due to how difficult it becomes to obtain items after a while. The only way to get Poke Balls, for instance, is to level up or to visit Poke Stops, real world locations that dispense items when the player visits them. But many gamers have complained that their nearest Poke Stop is many miles away, meaning when they run out of Poke Balls and can’t level up, they are essentially out of luck unless they want to spend real money at the game’s shop.

One possible workaround is Incense items. When used, these lure Pokemon to your area for a 30 minute time span, potentially a solution to those who can’t find many while walking around. But it appears that the spawn rate is based on the usage of mobile data in the area, and so some players outside of cities who use Incense items still find themselves out of luck.

The only other solution is GPS spoofing, a trick where you can make your phone believe that you are in another location. But this is extremely risky and not recommended, as Niantic has been handing out bans to anyone who tries to cheat the game in this way.

For now, unless Niantic reverses their stance mentioned at Comic-Con over the weekend, it seems that those unable to regularly visit Poke Stops probably won’t be able to get much mileage out of Pokemon Go in the long term. This could perhaps be one of the reasons the game has seen declining popularity over the past week, losing millions of daily active users since July 14th.