Pokémon Go has been praised for bringing people together from all walks of life, and while the game can indeed be found almost everywhere these days, a report suggests that it may not actually be “equally” available for everyone.
According to a study by Urban Institute, the availability of Pokéstops and gyms, an integral part of the game, are found to be relatively more common in affluent or white neighborhoods.
“In neighborhoods that are majority white, there are 55 portals on average, compared with 19 portals in neighborhoods that are majority black,” researchers Shiva Kooragayala and Tanaya Srini wrote in their report.
Even when the team controlled the research for population density and the amount of millennials living in the neighborhoods, the disparity persisted. The researchers noted: “Clusters of portals are clearly evident in and around the National Mall and other DC monuments, but removing these nonresidential areas has no effect on our findings.”
The analysis based its data off portals found in Ingress, Niantic’s science fiction-themed augmented reality game where the same geographic map and information were used to construct the digital map of Pokémon Go.
One possible reason for the apparent unequal distribution in the portals was how portal locations for Ingress were selected, which were mostly based on user suggestions.
The problem became more obvious in Pokémon Go since Pokémon’s fan base is more universal compared to Ingress’ initial user base which the report indicated to be aligned towards younger, male English-speakers.
Fewer Gyms and Pokéstops make the game less fun to play and players in rural areas have aired their complaints about the lack of Pokémon spawns, PokéStops, and gyms in their area. Niantic previously established a support page where players were allowed to request for new PokéStops and gyms. The page however, was later removed.