Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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The black market of peddling Pokémon Go accounts

The black market of peddling Pokémon Go accounts

Pokémon Go is a sensation. It’s impossible to walk down the street and not see a person or two, nose down, swiping upwards frustratedly on their phone. Maybe they’re bummed over the millionth Pidgey they’ve come across today, or are frantically trying to catch an uncharacteristic-to-that-area Charmander. Regardless, Pokémon Go is everywhere. It’s only natural for people to try and make some money off it after they feel fulfilled.

“They want something to show off to their friends, but they don’t have time”

Enter Chris—whose last name will be stricken for anonymity’s sake—a Sacramento, California resident who successfully sold his Pokémon Go account via familiar means. Chris sold his account on Craigslist for a whopping $275 after initially listing the account for $300. While Chris didn’t intend to peddle his account from the start, he foresaw the possibility and created his first account through a burner email. After seeing the high prices people were selling their accounts for via Craigslist, Ebay, and dedicated online forums, Chris leaped at the opportunity to sell his higher-level account. “If the developers intend to put in trading, I don’t think the price will be this high for much longer,” he noted of the current climate for selling accounts.

Capitalizing on the market wasn’t Chris’s only reason for selling his account. He also felt like, after a while, he got what he needed out of Pokémon Go. “[After] the first two weeks it got kind of stale,” Chris explained. “I think me, and a lot of other people, realized that there’s not much else to do after a certain while.” After all, Pokémon Go is really about one thing only: catching Pokémon. It’s understandable that players sometimes grow bored of that simple premise. Once Chris, and other sellers, reached a certain point, selling their accounts seemed like an appealing option. “Like you start playing this game for fun,” he said. “And then it turns out that after a certain point you can just cash out for a substantial amount of money.”

I wonder if any of these players huddling by some lures are building up accounts to sell.
I wonder if any of these players that were huddling by some lures are building up accounts to sell.

Pokémon Go accounts can range dramatically in “worth.” From $50 to $60 for a lower level account, to accounts that are in their mid-to-high level 20s falling somewhere between $200 to $300, or even higher. Pokémon Go’s popularity is at an all-time high right now, shattering app records for users, and the seedy black market for accounts matches that demand. Everyone wants to be a Pokémon master—but some just don’t have the time to dedicate to the app. “I think there’s a couple of reasons [that buyers want to be in this market],” said Chris. “One of them is that they don’t want to put in the work. Two is that they want something to show off to their friends, but they don’t have time.” Niantic advises trainers to not sell their accounts, or buy others’ accounts, vaguely threatening a soft-ban for repeating offenders in their Pokémon Go Trainer guidelines.

Chris has already successfully sold one account—the listing I initially contacted him through—and is busily working away at building up another account. Now that he’s already monetized off of one, he knows all the tricks. Luckily this time, it won’t take him 60 to 80 hours over the course of two weeks like his first account. He tells me that after only three days he’s already at level 19, putting my meek level 17 account shame. For the future Pokémon Go‘s longevity, he’s moderately optimistic. “I hope that the game does improve to keep players wanting to play the game,” he said. “It’s great for a certain amount of time, but after we got out of it what we already wanted, like yeah, we caught Pokémon, [but] that’s all that game has to offer at the moment.”

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