Last summer, Pokemon GO inspired countless would-be trainers to head out into the world in search of new Pokemon. However, certain players quickly figured out ways to spoof their device's GPS location in order to target gyms without ever leaving their home — and it's becoming a big problem.
Today, Pokemon GO players can grab an app from the Google Play Store that allows them to spoof a GPS location without modifying or jailbreaking their device. A Reddit thread from this week saw several users discuss situations where no one else was in the vicinity of a gym, but there were still other trainers contesting its ownership.
A big part of the appeal of Pokemon GO was the fact that its reliance on real-world geography made it unlike most other games. Players had to physically go somewhere to reap the rewards of capturing a gym, or to find the best Pokemon. If anyone can do anything from their couch by spoofing their location, the game loses its luster.
Niantic has done a great job of introducing new content and events to the app in 2017, but GPS spoofing poses a real threat to the future of Pokemon GO. When it becomes impossible for legitimate trainers to compete with spoofers, the most dedicated members of the community are going to move on to something else.
Pokemon GO may never reclaim the popularity it enjoyed when it launched last summer. However, GPS spoofing could well be the issue that determines whether it continues to be enjoyed by players for months and years to come, or dies off before the end of 2017.
Niantic needs to step in and address the problem before it's too late. It won't be easy to remove this kind of exploit from the game entirely, but making it harder to access the necessary tools would seem to be a good start.
Pokemon GO is available now for iOS and Android devices.