Sometimes, it just takes more than a Pikachu wearing a party hat to convince players to walk out into the freezing cold. Until the weather gets a little nicer, the idea of catching Pokémon or defending gyms in Pokémon Go without leaving the comfort of your home is compelling, to say the least — and with GPS spoofing tools, this fantasy can become a reality.
However, GPS spoofing in Pokémon Go is still a big risk. Your account could get banned, after all. But apparently, that hasn't stopped people from cheating the system in an effort to get the edge on other rule-abiding players.
Pokémon Go GPS spoofing: How easy is it and what are the repercussions?
After receiving numerous reader complaints about the state of Pokémon Go in their areas and experiencing a few weird goings-on in their own region, the folks at Pokémon Go Hub decided to download a GPS spoofing device to see just how easy and effective it was.
The results? Extremely easy. According to the testers, the spoofing apps — which were available for download on the Google Play Store — didn't cause a noticeable drop in game performance. To make matters worse, after using the GPS spoofing app, no one involved reported any sort of action taken against them.
So, not only is it extremely easy for the average player to access a spoofing tool, there doesn't seem to be any repercussions for doing so most of the time.
Pokémon Go GPS spoofing: How it's harming the game experience
According to the article on Pokémon Go Hub, the spoofing testers quickly reached a pretty horrifying realization about their own play area.
"It became apparent that GPS spoofing on Android is not only easy, it's also the preferred way to play for the majority of high-level players in our area," they wrote.
To test this, Pokémon Go Hub staked out a gym widely known to be controlled by spoofers, located on a beach with no other buildings around for at least 500 meters. That meant someone would either have to walk up to take the gym or GPS spoof from their home. They took over the gym and then waited for someone to show up to retake it.
"Forty-five minutes later, the gym was back in control of Team Mystic and it was level 8," the Pokémon Go Hub team wrote. "No one came. No cars, no people, not even cats."
GPS spoofing can make it incredibly difficult — if not outright impossible — to hold gyms legitimately, which is sure to frustrate many players who play without the use of third-party applications.
Pokémon Go GPS spoofing: What Niantic can do about it
Pokémon Go Hub argues that at this point, Niantic's only real option is to step up its game when it comes to detecting and punishing spoofers. It's not feasible to expect the Google Play Store to ban all spoofing software, and player reports are pretty ineffective. Even the rash of account bans Niantic performed at the end of January seemingly failed to dissuade people from using spoofers.
It's sad to say, but defending gyms in Pokémon Go is already an uphill battle for new players and those who still haven't reached the level 40 cap. GPS spoofing can only lead to burnout for most other players.
Of course, you should also report GPS spoofing if you see it — but until Niantic kicks it up a notch with punishing those who use it, we're not likely to see a substantive effect.
More Pokémon Go guides, tips, tricks and updates
Check out Mic's Pokémon Go tips and tricks. Here are guides on how to get stardust, how to determine how long it will take you to reach level 40, the kind of Pokemon you get from 10-kilometer eggs, how to create new PokéStops, how to maximize your chances of catching Pokémon and how PokéStops distribute Pokémon eggs. Also check out how to catch Gen 2 baby Pokémon, our analysis of post-balance update Chansey and Rhydon and everything you need to know about finding the long-awaited Pokémon Ditto.