The 'Pokémon Go' Entrepreneurs Desperately Trying to Cash in on the Craze

Some people want to be the very best, and some other people want to make money off of them.

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Jul 13 2016, 8:16pm

Someone playing 'Pokémon Go' in a car in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo by Sophia Kembowski/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

It's barely been a week since Pokémon Go became available in America, but already it's nudged our world ever so slightly closer to the strange, dystopic universe of the Pokémon games. Pokémon themselves are "real" now, as are the gyms and PokéStops that only exist inside the game. In Australia, a Pokémon-resource-rich playground is reportedly drawing hundreds of people every night, creating a rowdy scene so annoying that neighborhood residents pelted the Ash wannabes with water balloons and eggs. Strangers began showing up at a Massachusetts man's home when it was designated as a gym. Real estate listings have begun to (half-jokingly, I think?) mention nearby PokéStops as selling points. There are now likely more US users of Pokémon Go than Tinder or Twitter. And, of course, entrepreneurs are trying to cash in on the millions of people out there catching them all.

Most of the money made on Pokémon Go, of course, goes to the corporations behind it—Nintendo's stock price is soaring, and users are spending an estimated $1.6 million a day on the game, which is free to download and play but offers a variety of in-app purchases. But the game has become so popular that a market for goods and services has practically grown up around it.

Most obviously, Pokémon Go has become a boon to restaurants, bars, and other small businesses that have savvily purchased lures to attract Pokémon—and therefore the customers who love them—to their establishments. But you don't need a business to attempt to monetize Pokémon Go, all you need is a car. Craigslist is full of posting from people offering to drive players around in cars often equipped with WiFi, phone chargers, and snacks, letting them track down and catch rare Pokémon quickly.

Prices vary, but many drivers charge between $20 and $30 per passenger. A little unbelievably, some people are willing to pay these prices—one Pittsburgh-based driver and Pokémon guide says he's been "fully booked" from 11 AM and 3 PM, and his business is looking to partner with local ridesharing apps.

Not every Pokémon driver is so successful, however. Dustin Ward, a man from Tulsa, Oklahoma, told VICE that he's "only had a couple of people schedule rides." He did go to the trouble of building a website, however, which he's now selling on Craigslist for $500, hoping to attract a buyer from a larger city who might make more use of it.

Other Pokémon-based careers rely on the fact that wanting to be the best like no one ever was requires a lot of labor. You have to walk around to hatch eggs, wander through a variety of areas to find Pokémon, and train and evolve your critters into gym-conquering monsters. Why do that when you could pay someone else to do it for you? "POKEMON GO WHILE YOU WORK" proclaims one Craigslist ad from New York. In San Francisco, a "pro marathon runner" is offering to hatch eggs for a price—from $10 for two-kilometer eggs to $50 for ten-kilometer eggs.

The catch is that it's unclear that anyone is actually using these services. A wannabe professional trainer named Ivy St. Ive told Gothamist that she has gotten a few serious inquiries but mostly media requests and "creeps asking me out for drinks and coffee." (This brings up another field of economic activity around the game: writing literally anything about it in hopes of drawing in that sweet, sweet Pokémon Go traffic. Sorry everyone.)

St. Ive's experience echoes that of Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, a New York–based psychic who has done Tarot readings with Pokémon cards and is advertising his services as a Pokémon Go trainer on Craigslist. "All of the responses I've gotten to [the ad] are interview requests," he told VICE, though he added that he had been contacted by a tutoring company looking for Pokémon Go tutors.

Lipp-Bonewits apparently doesn't intend to make a living catching and training Pokémon—his motivation is that he's concerned that the game literally tracks its users' every move, something that makes him nervous. "I really want to be able to play this game, but I've got these privacy concerns, so I can play for other people," he said.

Though "Pokémon trainer" may never become a real-world career—especially because it's against the rules to play on someone else's account, whoops!—people aren't going to stop trying to turn the game into a job. Selling powerful Pokémon is impossible until Pokémon Go allows players to trade their creatures, but people are selling their accounts, including one optimistic player who wants $500 for his. Good luck to him, and also good luck to the "serial entrepreneur" in the Bay Area who is looking for investors to "start company that will profit from the Pokemon go platform" by posting on Craigslist.

For now, one of the most lucrative economic activities associated with Pokémon Gomight be robbing players who are walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods with their eyes glued to their phones. That's where one between-jobs bodyguard in San Francisco is stepping in to help.

"I thought I would offer my services for a discounted rate of $20/hr. I have been working on a leash system that allows you to be connected to me at all times," reads his Craigslist post. "We can adjust the length of the leash so you can roam freely around the park or city with the comfort of knowing I am right behind you ready to kick some ass if needed.

"I am also willing to discount my rates for multiple players. I can comfortably connect up to 3 leashes to my Poke-belt," he continues.

VICE contacted the poster to see if he was joking, or if there is such a thing as joking when it comes to Pokémon Go anymore, or what, but he did not immediately respond.

Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.

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