Japan and Brazil share a surprising many things in common. Since the start of the 20th century, there’s been a sizeable Japanese-Brazilian population in South America, spurred by the rapidly increasing global demand for coffee and the lack of immigrant labor in the wake of the global slave trade collapse. Though there’s the expected history of tension and conflict as two vastly dissimilar cultures figure out how to fuse into one people, a hundred years later and Sao Paolo cuisine and culture’s taken on a very unique hybridization – and the return migration from Brazil to Japan’s left the famously insular island nation with 15% of a population that speaks Portuguese.
Oh, yeah, and it’s bloody impossible to capture Pokemon GO gyms in either country.
Goddamn Chinese spoofers.
2500 CP Dragonites and Vaporeons are nothing to sneeze at. One alone is enough to singlehandedly defend a gym against players below level 20 (and foolishly didn’t collect enough Stardust to compensate), and never mind a high-prestige gym with five or six of the meaty bastards. Asking a whole new region like Brazil, whose Pokemon GO services were activated just this week, to deal with them is demoralizing at best – a good way to lose the regional market entirely from player frustration otherwise.
Is it just a number of hyper-obsessed fans grabbing an APK and running roughshod over their fellow domestic players? Nope. Cheaters. A whole bloody bunch of VPN-using, GPS location spoofing, gold-grinding cheaters. As has been reported by VERY many sources, new regions in particular are having issues actually getting to play this game that everybody all over the world’s all hyped up about. In the Argentina launch alone, gyms all over the country were taken over by level 22 accounts – normally an impossibility, given spawn rates, XP gains, and the fact that they were taken within the FIRST HOUR of official launch.
For somebody with a simple GPS spoofing app, though, it’s no trouble at all to “virtually” grind all the best Dratini and Eevee spawns, then “teleport” your way down to Sao Paolo with a giant perfect-IV monster of a dragon. And why not? After all, there’s money to be had! Thanks to gyms granting both Stardust and Pokecoins for holding them, players are actively incentivized to cheat the system in whatever way guarantees that they get to hold turf.
Obviously, there should be a massive ban on the Day Zero accounts that’ve been hijacking the Brazilian and Japanese markets. But the last thing that Niantic should do is wring wrists, gnash teeth, and declare that it’s technologically impossible to keep people from subverting GPS reporting (which, to be fair, it is). Not when the whole rationale for taking over foreign gyms was an emergent product of their game design in the first place. It’s in the design docs to reward players for defensive play, after all – the harder it is to shove you out of a gym, the more coins you generate for free Pokeballs, Modules, Eggs, and Incubators.
Bans merely treat the symptom. It’s on them to change the fundamental incentives that make those bans necessary in the first place. And the good news is, that’s actually really simple! If the problem is that defensive awards incentives non-interactive behavior, the solution is to obviously get rid of that and award offensive play instead.
Just split the incentives. Increase the Stardust award for successfully joining a Gym, but ONLY award gym-holders with Stardust (please; just give us more Stardust resources). Move the Pokecoin incentive, instead, over to successfully defeating gym trainers – and scale it in two ways. First, that you gain more from defeating a Pokemon with a similarly-leveled Pokemon, and secondly that while each individual trainer garners you only a small handful of coins, you gain more from outright toppling gyms based on their respective levels.
Pushing the incentive with actual monetary value over to the offensive side of play should, in itself, have an emergent effect: it encourages an extremely high churn rate on gyms while discouraging the placement of absurdly high-level Pokemon in them. After all, you want your 2000+ CP suckers to take gyms, not get knocked over and set to 1 HP in ten minutes by roaming bands of bloodthirsty Valor teams looking to make a quick dozen Pokecoins each through joint effort. Low-level gym-holders only take a few potions, after all – and your 3000 CP Snorlax’s gonna eat through your Super Potion supply like it was a buffet line at Vegas.
Conveniently, you can’t buy potions with Pokecoins. And, yes, I’m deliberately leaving a loophole so that teamwork means easy coins – since the suggested system only tracks your own Pokemon levels relative to the one you’re fighting, multiple players have a distinct advantage over solo challenges. But I am completely fine with giving a passive “social” bonus, as that's been the most positive hallmark of the game thus far, and I suspect Niantic Labs should be too.