How 'Pokemon Go' Caused Billions in Property Damage

Photograph by Olivia Harris—Getty Images

Pokemon Go took the gaming world by storm in the summer of 2016. It also caused billions of dollars in damage.

In a working paper at the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers Mara Faccio and John McConnell estimated that the total amount of property and equipment damage caused by Pokemon Go players in the nearly 150 days after the game’s release amounted to $2 billion to $7.3 billion.

In the paper, called “Death by Pokemon Go: The Economic and Human Cost of Using Apps While Driving,” the scientists examined police accident reports in Tippecanoe County, Indiana in the 148 days after the game’s release. They found that the damage cost ranged from $5.2 million to $25.5 million in that county. They then extrapolated that data to every county across the U.S. to arrive at their final estimate.

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Pokemon Go launched in 2016 to considerable fanfare. The game had augmented reality features that allowed users to see virtual Pokemon characters overlaid on the real world. Players were tasked with seeking out Pokemon hiding around them and capturing them. Soon after the game’s release, people all over the U.S. were taking to the streets, parks, and their neighborhoods to find the hiding Pokemon.

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Not surprisingly, some of those explorers ran into some trouble. Some players were injured as they roamed around town and car crashes were reported when gamers were playing the game while driving. According to Faccio and McConnell, whose report was earlier reported on by New York magazine, two Pokemon Go-related deaths were also reported.

To be clear, the report is a working paper, which means the data might change as the study continues. It’s also worth noting that extrapolating information from a single U.S. county to others isn’t an exact science, which is why the range in estimated damage is so broad.

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