Fake Beaches Are Popping Up Online And You Can Blame Pokémon Go Players

Image: The Pokemon Company / Kotaku / Oleg Kopyov / (Shutterstock)
Image: The Pokemon Company / Kotaku / Oleg Kopyov / (Shutterstock)

A large and popular open-source mapping database used by many companies, apps, and websites is currently dealing with a strange problem: Random, fake beaches are appearing in places like backyards, church parking lots, and golf courses. And the community knows who to blame: Pokémon Go players trying to catch a rare new creature.

On April 22, Wiglett was added to Pokémon Go. This water-type worm-like creature can only be found in and around beaches and coastal areas of the real world. So this means if you live in Kansas, as I do, then you’ll have to travel to the nearest large lake or river to catch Wiglett. Or, if those lakes and rivers near you aren’t considered beaches, then you’ll need to travel further, possibly to the East or West Coast of the United States. Well, except, that’s not the case because—using some code—I was able to see all the spawn locations in Kansas for Wiglett and it turns out I’m surrounded by beaches! Fake ones, that is.

As reported by 404 Media, Pokémon Go players are manipulating and editing the real-world map data the game uses to add more beaches in the hopes of catching a Wiglett without having to travel. Pokémon Go uses OpenStreetMaps—a free, open-source map tool that’s like Wikipedia meets Google Maps—for all its real-world data and locations. And since players have figured out the two “biomes” in which Wiglett will spawn, they can load up OpenStreetMaps and add fake beaches anywhere they want, frustrating the people who maintain the large mapping database.

In an April 27 thread, OpenStreetMap community members spotted the issue of fake beaches and quickly connected it to the launch of a new, coastal-only Pokemon. It also helped that some players were creating new beaches in the shape of Pokémon balls, which is a pretty obvious hint as to who’s to blame for all the new beaches.

Over on the Pokémon Go subreddit, players are using an online tool to track beaches and coastal areas in OpenStreetMap to find nearby locations where Wiglett might spawn. And some seem surprised that golf courses and other non-beach areas are marked as beaches. Others seem to know what’s up and are hoping people won’t report the locations until after they get their Wiglett.

As pointed out by some members of the OpenStreetMap community, this kind of thing happened in the past when Pokémon Go was first released. People started flooding the tool with new schools and landmarks, leading to lots of headaches and bans. It’s likely that this recent influx of fake beaches will end in a similar fashion.


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