Olympic Gymnast Racks up $5,000 Pokemon GO Bill

By | 3 months ago 

The Pokemon GO craze has spread worldwide, and even Olympians are getting in on it. Unfortunately, international data isn’t cheap, as one Japanese athlete recently discovered.

It’s hard to overstate the prevalence of Pokemon GO in video gaming currently. Niantic’s mobile title has clearly surpassed even its own developer’s wildest dreams when it comes to its popularity, something illustrated by both its 75 million downloads and the constant struggle to please a playerbase that has quickly exposed the game’s biggest flaws. Despite those shortcomings, however, Pokemon GO has become so inextricably tied to mobile gaming that even globe-trotting athletes are getting in on the fun.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura is a six-time world champion gymnast, a multiple-time gold medalist at the Olympics, and a man who is deeply invested in catching them all via his mobile device of choice. According to the Kyodo Times, that dedication reached new and unexpected heights for Uchimura, who became hooked on the game after touching down in Brazil for this year’s Olympics. Unaware that the star athlete did not have a flat rate for international data usage, Uchimura quickly accumulated a $5,000 USD data charge in under a week.

While many Pokemon GO players are turning against Niantic, Uchimura racked up a phone bill that could single-handedly keep smaller developers in business for a month. According to Kenzo Shirai, Uchimura’s teammate, the Olympian looked “dead at the team meal” the day he found out about his bill. Luckily for Japanese fans, his service provider let him buy a backdated plan that only charged him $30 a day instead, likely to preserve his mindset in the hopes of Uchimura taking down another gold medal this summer.

Although amusing, Uchimura’s passion for Pokemon GO is still in its early stages, which means he likely isn’t familiar with the number of issues gamers have with Niantic currently. Pokemon GO players recently discovered the ability to create fake legendary Pokemon in the game, which has only compounded fans’ problems with the tracking tool and other features. It has gotten so bad that some players are beginning to take matters into their own hands and design a better Pokemon GO tracking tool themselves, with the hopes that Niantic will simply implement that idea rather than continue to force matters with their current malfunctioning version.

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If nothing else, though, Uchimura’s almost incredibly costly run-in with international data charges should serve as a reminder that Pokemon GO is still an addictive, fun game that many players thoroughly enjoyed during the first few weeks of its release. If Niantic manages to get on top of the issues that currently plague the game, there’s still a lot to like about Pokemon GO that could make the game popular for years to come.

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Source: Kyodo Times (via Deadspin)