Entertainment

Pokemon Go creators working to remove unwanted Pokestops, gyms

The creators of Pokemon Go say they're working to remove real-world locations that don't wish to be included in the mobile gaming sensation.

Developer working on updates so game remains fun for players but respects the real world

A man uses a mobile phone in front of an advertisement board bearing the image of Pokemon Go at an electronic shop in Tokyo, on July 27, 2016. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

The creators of Pokemon Go say they're working to remove real-world locations that don't wish to be included in the mobile gaming sensation.

The Pokemon Company's consumer marketing director J.C. Smith said in an interview this week that they're updating the augmented-reality game so it remains fun for players but respects the real world.

"When something is really popular, we have to figure out the most respectful way to deal with it and make sure that everyone is playing safely and doing things in a respectful manner," said Smith. "It's only been two weeks since it launched, and there's been so much attention and so many people playing that it's tough to think of all the ways it could affect the world."

The location-aware game provides virtual rewards for players who visit real sites designated as Pokestops in the game. Several locations, such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan and the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., have asked to be removed from Pokemon Go.

A screen capture of a Pokemon Go gym featuring the Lennon Wall in Hong Kong. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Since the free game launched July 6 for mobile devices and rocketed to the top of the download charts, some players have injured themselves in pursuit of virtual monsters or have been distracted while playing Pokemon Go while driving.

"For us, we're making sure the play experience is done right," said Smith. "Initially, there was some server overload, which we've worked on. Now, we're looking at features in the game and how to fine-tune them so that it's appealing to the fans but also respectful of the private institutions that are affected by it."

Smith wouldn't offer a timeline of when updates will come to the game. Pokemon Go developer Niantic offers an online form to request exclusions, but changes to the game are not automatic.

People stand in line to enter the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in 2009. The U.S. museum requested that smartphone users refrain from catching Pokemon when they are inside the museum. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

For some sensitive locations, change has already come to Pokemon Go. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum spokesman Andrew Hollinger said the museum had been removed from the game per its wishes.

Despite the monumental success of Pokemon Go, Smith said the mobile game's triumph isn't affecting how the Pokemon Company is approaching future projects based on the 20-year-old franchise, such as a live-action film to be produced by Legendary Entertainment or the upcoming Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon games for the Nintendo 3DS system.

"We don't need to directly tie anything to Go for it to benefit our fans or the brand as a whole," said Smith. "In the end, the characters are the same. Pikachu in our animated series or Pikachu in our upcoming Legendary film or Pikachu in Go are all the same."'

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