We need your help to protect children from a wave of corporate marketing at the heart of the Pokemon GO craze.
Pokemon GO, produced by Niantic, Inc., is a location-based augmented reality game, where players visit specific real world places to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures. Niantic touts how Pokemon GO encourages players to "Get Up, Get Out, and Explore," and the news is filled with stories of strangers bonding while playing the game.
But Niantic has another form of meet-ups in mind. They're selecting some "PokeStops" and "Pokemon Gyms"--the real world locations that players must visit to succeed in the game--based on paid sponsorships. In other words, Niantic is using the game's incredible appeal to lure customers to brick and mortar establishments. 7,800 Starbucks stores in the United States have become PokeStops and Pokémon Gyms, and will serve a new Pokemon GO-themed Frappuccino. The purple drink is high in fat and calories, including the equivalent of 21 teaspoons of sugar for a “venti” with whipped cream! The Starbucks sponsorship in the U.S. coincides with a second promotion that turns 10,500 Sprint locations across the country into PokéStops and Gyms. Both the Sprint and Starbucks partnerships follow a similar move in Japan, where every McDonald’s turned into a Pokemon GO hot spot when the game debuted. Once children playing the game arrived at the restaurant, they were enticed to buy Happy Meals with Pokemon GO toys.
Visiting a junk food restaurant—or any other sponsor’s establishment—should not be part of a game played by children. Nor should Niantic use the information it collects on a child’s location in order to serve targeted ads. That’s why we’re calling on Niantic to remove all sponsored gyms and PokeStops for any players under age 13, and to not use information about children’s location or gameplay to target them with ads. Because all players are required to provide their birthdate at sign-up, Niantic can easily identify and protect players under 13.
Like other advocates, we’re troubled about the game's safety and privacy practices. But we are especially concerned about targeting kids with new, sneaky forms of advertising. Please sign our petition, and tell Niantic to protect children who play Pokemon GO. And please encourage others to sign as well.
- Tell @NianticLabs: junk food marketing has no place in Pokemon GO. #pokemonstop pic.twitter.com/Cm9giZcz6S http://bit.ly/2ae1BkJ
- Say no to sponsored PokeStops for kids! Games should be about play, not shopping. #pokemonstop http://bit.ly/2ae1BkJ
- Tell @NianticLabs: Kids shouldn't be served ads like this in Pokemon GO. #pokemonstop http://bit.ly/2ae1BkJ pic.twitter.com/tdg9PY1TGc
- With Pokemon GO, kids can explore...the local McDonald’s? Tell Niantic: no sponsored stops for kids. #pokemonstop http://bit.ly/2ae1BkJ