Update 07/17/16: Pokémon Go has officially launched in Canada and no Canadians have been banned for playing the game early.
While Pokémon Go officially rolled out the U.K this morning, an official Canadian release date still has yet to be announced.
In the meantime, the game’s terms of service have been misinterpreted by many Canadian Pokémon Go players who either switched App Stores to download the game, or went to a website like APKMirror to download an APK of the title, in order to gain access to the popular title early. To put the amount of Canadians playing Pokémon go into perspective, according to some studies, over 6 percent of all Android device owners in Canada have installed Pokémon Go.
“Methods of cheating, unfortunately, are limited only by cheaters’ imaginations, but include at a minimum the following: using modified or unofficial software; playing with multiple accounts (one account per player, please); sharing accounts; using tools or techniques to alter or falsify your location; or selling/trading accounts,” reads the section of Niantic’s terms of service that’s being shared throughout online Canadian Pokémon Go communities right now, leading many players to believe that massive bans are on the way.
The truth is most Canadian Pokémon Go players likely have nothing to worry about.
Canadians playing the game early have neither broken the letter of the game’s terms of service nor its spirit. After all, for the most past they’re playing a legitimate, unmodified version of the game.
Moreover, practically speaking, banning hundreds of thousands of iOS and Android Pokémon Go players in Canada (and around the world) for no reason other than playing the legitimate version of the game early makes very little sense from a business perspective.
Given Pokémon Go’s free-to-play monetization model, it’s in Niantic’s best interest to have as many players as possible engaged in its game, especially now that its earlier server issues have been mostly resolved. In short, there have been no firm examples of Niantic banning Canadians playing Pokemon Go early and there likely won’t be.
Niantic has, however, swiftly rolled out a plan to ban Pokémon Go players who have used in-game hacks to spoof their GPS location, making it easier to stock up on items at PokeStops and catch rare Pokémon.
Instead of permanently removing these players, Niantic has plans to “soft ban” nefarious Pokémon hunters.
This means those affected by the ban will still be able to open the app and play it – they just won’t be able to actually do anything in Pokémon Go’s augmented reality world. For example, all Pokémon will run away from players and they also won’t be able to battle at gyms.
Bans reportedly last just a few hours which has led to backlash on Pokémon Go’s very active subReddit. It’s likely that because bans are so short, few players will be deterred from cheating.
We’ve reached out to Niantic for clarification regarding the developer’s policies related to users playing Pokémon Go in regions where the game has not officially launched yet.
Related reading: Here’s how to get Pokémon Go in Canada right now