Popular augmented reality game Pokémon GO is once again in hot water for executing bans on certain players in the last few weeks.
Many trainers have reported that they have been banned from both Wayfarer and the game for submitting a Pokéstop nomination, which Niantic has then rejected.
For context, the Wayfarer program was introduced by Pokémon GO back in 2019. This program allowed players to contribute to the game's improvement by participating and submitting entries to enhance the exploration aspect for all players.
One of the contributions players can make is the nomination of Pokéstops. However, there have been reports from players who allege that they have faced suspensions for unsuccessful nominations and have expressed frustration with the lack of a successful appeals process.
One such trainer is X (formerly known as Twitter) user GreenBeeV. According to the tweet, the trainer submitted an appeal form for a ban — and it was “totally useless” because of the “same auto-reply” from Niantic and Wayfarer.
Redditor RandomCybrarian, from the Netherlands, also brought up this issue on 5 September, sharing a screenshot of the suspension that was given to them.
“We have confirmed that you have been submitting nominations that do not meet our criteria. As a result of this violation, your Wayfarer and Pokémon GO accounts have been suspended for 30 days.”
The message also indicated a link that trainers can read to review guidelines on submitting Pokestop suggestions.
Of course, the same Redditor expressed their anger and disappointment about the fiasco, saying they had faithfully been playing the game and following the rules for seven years.
The issue had gained such traction that Pokémon GO content creator ZyoniK discussed the issue in a YouTube video he uploaded on Wednesday (20 September), and his video was consequently shared by Redditor JRE47.
According to the video, 2023 Silph Road Arena APAC Champion “nyankake” from Japan, who goes under the X handle RunnningCat, explained what had happened to him, sharing that he submitted a suggestion via Wayfarer in March 2022, which was rejected in April of the same year.
However, the trainer received a ban more than a year later, on September 2023, and immediately filed a complaint.
“Although the replies from both of them were in the form of canned messages, stating that they could not explain the specifics,” he added, it seemed that the suggestion “violated copyright” claims.
He also questioned if the action to impose a “penalty equivalent to Strike 2” was appropriate for first-time offenders.
Zyonik pointed out in the video that the new Wayfarer abuse policy indicated that when the policy goes live, it won’t “just address new abusers, but it will also retroactively work for up to a year.”
However, RunnningCat asked in his post, “Why is it that even people other than myself, who also claim that their applications were not filed within the last year, have been targeted this time?”
The response from the community was completely divided, with some, like Redditor @POGOFan808, worried that they would be rejected for submitting multiple Pokestop locations that they believed were good nominations might be rejected and they might receive a ban.
Others, like Redditor Paweron, believe that some of the bans were because of a bot issue that Niantic was trying to address in the Netherlands, pointing out that a couple of those who have complained were from the said country.
“However, what they don't realise is it is [a]ffecting everyone else too. Bob, from down the road, might think a submission is a good idea. He might not have realised the submission isn't perfect and would normally get rejected,” Redditor Brighton pointed out.
“Instead, the bots all accept it. Now, Bob is getting banned because they think he's part of this ‘ring’ of bots. Poor guy just wanted a Pokéstop.”
A Wayfarer Ambassador attempted to address the issue
Niantic Wayfarer Ambassador (unpaid volunteers deployed by Niantic for Wayfarer) “AisforAndis” has attempted to address the situation by reaching out to Zyonik and others that have posted on X. He posted a thread stating that there were “a lot of misconceptions” in Zyonik’s video.
There are unfortunately a lot of misconceptions in this video by @ZyoniK_ (no hate to him). I'm a Wayfarer Ambassdor (an unpaid volunteer, NOT an employee) and I helped Niantic create the new Wayfarer anti-abuse policies, so let's clear up some of these misconceptions: A thread🧵 https://t.co/dALmNn9wkZ
— Andis (@AisforANDIS) September 20, 2023
He claimed that “We Wayfarer Ambassadors actually spoke to Niantic about the claims that Greenbeev made several weeks ago,” adding that they wanted to clarify the ban and ensure that it was not “unfair.”
According to AisforAndis, both the Wayfarer and Pokemon GO teams reviewed the situation and said that the ban was justified, with “additional details [he] cannot share.”
“In my opinion, the suspension was fair.” AisforAndis also addressed the post of nyankake, indicating another reason for the 30-day ban, and attempted to address other questions and suggestions by the community.
He also emphasised that if a trainer is not doing anything wrong, they won't get any bans.
However, some of their responses posed more questions than answers for the community, especially regarding the case of Greenbeev, where AisforAndis admitted that “perhaps malice was not intended, but it’s hard to know for sure without seeing all of the person’s submissions.”
“Just a quick point here. If my area gets a faster reviewing time, I tend to submit a lot more; it's not malice: I think 99% of people would [submit] more if things were going faster,” X user gazzas89 pointed out in response to what AisforAndis has said.
GreenBeeV also challenged the Wayfarer Ambassador to share “all accepted stops” he submitted that were fake.
On the other hand, nyankake, agreed with some of what the Wayfarer Ambassador said but pointed out that “as you say, we do not always detect abuse correctly.”
Nyankake also added that players like him needed an explanation from Niantic themselves, “Otherwise, the good user who received the suspension cannot accept the punishment.”
“What is most disappointing, even more than my being punished, is that Niantic has so far refused to respond to any of my inquiries in any detail,” he added in a continuation of his response to AisforAndis.
“I don't believe this is an action that will gain the trust of users, even if it is their rule.”
Niantic has yet to address the situation about player inquiries and concerns about bans from rejected Wayfarer submissions.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.