Pokemon GO players have been asking developer Niantic to introduce trading since the game launched back in the summer of 2016. However, one concern that has prevailed is that such a gameplay feature would allow scammers to thrive and in turn create an illicit market where people buy and sell the rarest Pokemon.
When Niantic officially announced Pokemon GO trading earlier this week, the developer didn’t explicitly say that it had installed measures to combat that sort of use, but it didn’t need to. Anti-cheat or anti-trade marketplace measures seem to be baked into the foundations of the trading feature. What players may see as arbitrary and even frustrating limits on how they trade Pokemon to other people, seem to have been specifically designed in order to make sure that players trade for fun and not for profit.
This is evident in the way that the friendship level and trade price systems work. In order to perform a Special Trade – a trade of any legendary or shiny Pokemon or a Pokemon not in the player’s Pokedex – players must reach a certain friendship level and only one of these trades can be performed per day. It also costs a huge amount of Stardust (the currency that powers Pokemon trades) in order to perform a Special Trade – as much as 1,000,000 Stardust with someone not at a Best Friend level.
Officially, “trades are a great way to show a friend how much you care” and the major Stardust discounts are emblematic of that too. But unofficially (or at least, not publicly) this discourages players from just trading Pokemon willy-nilly to anyone they aren’t friends with, such as people they’re interacting with for the purpose of selling Pokemon for real money. Plus, the friendship level has an impact on the stats of a Pokemon, meaning that trading with a low-level friend risks getting a Pokemon with poor stats.
Building up friendship levels requires time and effort and acquiring the amount of Stardust needed to perform Special Trades without the friendship discount just isn’t efficient. Even if players collect Stardust using a Star Piece, it would still take them a while to reach one million. The trading feature doesn’t facilitate the sort of cheap and fast Pokemon trades that sellers would need in order to make a serious amount of money.
The player level and distance requirements also work as a significant deterrent to would-be Pokemon sellers. In order to perform trades, Pokemon GO players must be within 100 meters of each other. This makes it incredibly difficult for players to buy or set-up a Pokemon trade online without using GPS spoofing, an action which can and has gotten Pokemon GO players banned in the past. The risk of being banned and the fact that players have to be level 10 to perform a trade also means that those who try to sell Pokemon by spoofing risk losing a massive amount of progress. It’s also not efficient for sellers to level up new accounts each time one of them gets banned.
Perhaps the one feature of Pokemon GO trading that works in favor of Pokemon sellers and scammers is that there are Candy bonuses depending on how far apart the Pokemon were caught. This seems to be designed to reward players who love to explore and travel and are perhaps interested in trading regional exclusives, but it does play into the hands of spoofers. Spoofers can acquire regional Pokemon far easier (and for far cheaper) than even a jetsetting Pokemon GO player. It’s unlikely that any spoofer would be in it just for the Candy bonuses, though, but that point still stands.
Admittedly, it’s too early to say whether Pokemon GO trading will be completely spam, scam, and sale free, but based on the outlined features, it does seem that Niantic has taken significant steps into making the feature anti-abuse. The game’s problems with cheaters and hackers are well-documented but with trading, Niantic appears to be taking a pro-active approach.
Pokemon GO is available on Android and iOS devices.