Pokémon Go is the latest gaming phenomenon that is taking
the world by storm. Within one week of its launch, 65 million
people had downloaded the game to their device. Android and iPhone
users all over the world are playing this augmented reality game
that superimposes Pokémon characters onto a telephone
screen. With the assistance of GPS tracking technology and the
cameras on smartphones, players wander around trying to find and
catch Pokémon characters, with names such as Pikachu and
Wigglytuff, which can appear anywhere.
The game has been applauded for getting people outdoors and
encouraging exercise as people walk for hours and hours in search
of Pokémons. Once-empty parks and paths are now bustling
with new foot traffic. It is also viewed as a good way to bring
people together and an opportunity to meet like-minded gamers.
Additionally, there is a lot of buzz with respect to the
commercialization potential of the game. Through the use of
publicly available location data, the game has tagged certain
businesses and landmarks as "Pokéstops" where
users can stock up on game supplies and place lures to attract
Pokémon to an area. Since its launch, many businesses have
capitalized on this feature by placing their own lures to encourage
players to stop in at their location.
While the game seems innocent enough, there have been an
increasing number of reports of injuries, crime, and now lawsuits
associated with it. For instance, the game has been cited in
several motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents. Pokémons
have been used to lure people to remote areas in order to rob them.
And just this week a homeowner in Alberta launched a class action
lawsuit against the makers of the game after her home was
designated a Pokémon Gymnasium (in Pokémon Go terms,
Gyms are highly sought after stops).
In light of this potential for injury or loss, there are
possible insurance implications to the Pokémon Go craze.
First and foremost, we could see an increase in the number of motor
vehicle accidents caused by players with their eyes on the game
rather than the road. We know that distracted driving is already
the leading cause of accident-related injuries involving drivers,
bicyclists and pedestrians. Indeed, there have already been
numerous reports of accidents involving Pokémon Go
Second, an unsuspecting homeowner's yard could become the
next Pokéstop. In the recent Alberta lawsuit, the homeowner
claims that hundreds of people have flocked to her backyard,
scaling her fence in an attempt to get in, sometimes in the middle
of the night. While she is pursuing damages for invasion of her
privacy, this situation, and others like it, results in an
immediate danger of liability and a claim on a homeowner's
Similarly, many business locations have become unexpected (or
expected, as the case may be) interests to Pokémon Go
players, creating greater exposure for commercial liability
policies. There have been reports of people walking into doors,
rolling ankles and falling down steps while playing the game in
Another interesting legal issue is the extent to which the
makers of the game, Niantic, would be held liable for any
Pokémon Go-related injuries. Lawsuits against video game
makers have been filed before but courts have typically declined to
find them liable. Despite the precedent of decisions ruling in
favour of video game makers, it is still too early to tell whether
Niantic would be held liable for injuries sustained while playing
Pokémon Go. The company presents warnings and disclaimers to
users every time the app is opened. It is also clear that Niantic
has thought about the possibility of claims; the game's terms
of use include a mandatory arbitration clause for all disputes.
While there are certainly novel insurance and legal implications
to this new craze, it is important to recognize that Pokémon
Go is a game and enthusiasts are simply having fun. Without a
doubt, more friends and families have been enjoying the outdoors
this summer which, overall, is a good thing. Only time will tell
whether Pokémon Go is here to stay, but in the meantime,
players should employ some common-sense tactics in order to avoid
injury or loss by being aware of their surroundings and remaining
alert at all times.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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