Pokemon Go: Don’t be hit by fees

Pokemon Go, while free to download, will charge you extra if you want to get ahead in the game the lazy way. Angelique Ruzicka explores some of the pitfalls of the app that has taken the world by a storm.

Pokemon Go is the latest mobile game, that has millions of people walking (and talking about it) literally all over town (and the world). For those not in the know, it’s a free-to-play location based, augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android phones. It was released in most regions of the world this month (July 2016) and has yet to make its way to South Africa – although reports say the Pokemon Go Plus accessory will be available from tomorrow (29 July).

However, some South Africans have already downloaded the game through unofficial means. It’s best to wait until it is officially released here but, if you are desperate, MyBroadband has explained how it can be downloaded via a ‘backdoor’.

At the time of writing, it’s been downloaded by more than 75 million people worldwide.

Where you will pay

The game does use ‘Freemium’ (basic services are free), but you can use real money to purchase additional gameplay items, catch rarer Pokemons and progress up levels quickly. You can actually earn these items through ‘battles’ or catching the Pokemon yourself by traipsing around town (note: don’t drive and Pokemon) but if you’re lazy or the type that needs instant gratification then you’d need to pay for them.

According to UK personal finance website, Moneywise, the in-app currency ranges from £0.79 (R14.82) for 100 virtual coins to a whopping £79.99 (R1,500), which buys 14,500 virtual coins.

According to Moneywise, there’s no spending cap so if you transact frequently all these micro-transactions could soon add up. While there’s more fun to be had finding Pokemon and progressing to the next level through playing the game, it’s clear that some people are already spending money as Pokemon Go has made over $14 million (R199.2 million) through in-app purchases.

How to save money while playing Pokemon Go

  1. Don’t be lazy; play the game the conventional way to get to the next level and find rare Pokemon by traipsing far and wide. This will improve your health anyway and if you are taking part in programmes like Discovery’s Vitality and earn points through your fitness tracker it can help you achieve your weekly goals and get that free coffee or smoothie from Vida or Kauai.
  2. Turn off in-app purchases. If you have kids, make sure there’s a password or fingerprint needed before any purchases can be made.
  3. Careful of your data costs: You need internet access to play the game. Try use free WiFi where possible. In Cape Town for instance you can get free 50 MB of free WiFi on the My Citi Bus.
  4. Reduce your data costs by saving local maps to your phone rather than downloading them as you go. According to reports, this tactic doesn’t work for everyone.
  5. Don’t download the game through unofficial sources. This will just open your phone up to viruses. According to Timeslive, IT security company, Sophos, says there is already one malware remix of the POkemon Go app, which has been deliberately poisoned with Android spyware/RATware/zombie toolkit. If you still can’t wait for the official version on Google Play then invest in some good anti-virus software.
  6. If you play while on holiday make sure you buy a local SIM so you pay local prices.
  7. Businesses may soon pay you to play Pokemon Go: You heard right – you might get PAID playing this game! According to the UK’s Metro newspaper, businesses are offering rewards to Pokemon Go gamers through an app called LureSquad, if they drop a lure outside their shops. Some restaurants have also reportedly offered discounts or specials for people who post information about finding Pokemon on or near their premises. We’re hoping some smart South African entrepreneurs catch onto this trend when Pokemon Go comes to us. Particularly those cake and coffee shops – oh pretty please!
  8. Finally, you can make money by selling your Pokemon account. One person advertised their Pokemon account on eBay (level 27) for R71, 406.13 for the starting bid or you could have bought it for R142, 812.26.

Sources: Moneywise, Metro, TimesLive, MyBroadband, The Telegraph, eBay