Motorcycle taxis waiting in line. Photo: Flickr / Martix (CC BY-NC 2.0).
Pokémon Go, the trendy mobile game that sent Nintendo's stock values on a rollercoaster ridelately, is pumping money into another industry in the Peruvian Amazon, where motorcycle taxi drivers in Iquitos, the capital city of the Loreto region, have seen a spike in demand, as the game's players hire drivers to move around town more efficiently. For eight to twelve soles (between $2.50 and $3.60) an hour, a Pokémon hunter can hire a typical three-wheel ride to drive them around the streets of Iquitos, so they can catch the elusive virtual creatures.
Motorcycle taxi drivers in Iquitos are the peak of Peruvian creativity. I pay my respect to them. [I am] #PokeDumb.
This is not floro.
(In colloquial Peruvian speech, floromeans trying to convince someone using lies or exaggerating reality.)
In a text republished by several different media outlets, a driver named Luis López explained how the Association of Motor Taxi Drivers of Iquitos has embraced the trend:
Nosotros brindamos el servicio y el usuario con su celular nos pide que vayamos por el centro de Iquitos, donde existen mayor aglomeración de pokemones y pokeparadas. Los pokemones más raros están en avenidas fuera del centro, entonces nosotros conducimos, sin distraernos y el usuario puede atraparlos.
We provide the service and the user, with their mobile phone, asks us to drive around Iquitos downtown, where most Pokémons and pokéstops are located. The rarest Pokémons are found in avenues outside downtown, though, so we drive without distractions while the user catches them.
López also said the association is working in coordination with the police to avoid traffic collisions, and pointed out that some younger players have risked their lives while playing, out of eagerness for the game. Police have also stepped up patrolling efforts to protect players from mobile-phone thieves.
Unfortunately, despite these efforts, the city has seen an increase in traffic collisions:
En las últimas horas se ha registrado un incremento de accidentes de tránsito relacionados a Pokémon Go en la ciudad, según reveló la policía de Iquitos. El General PNP Julio Mercado, jefe policial del Oriente, dio a conocer que los peatones que vienen jugando se distraen constantemente en las vías llenas de vehículos.
Además, muchos de los usuarios son víctimas de accidentes pues utilizan motocicletas para atrapar a las criaturas y otros son blanco de malhechores que les arrebatan sus celulares.
In the past few hours, the number of Pokémon-Go-related traffic collisions in the city has increased, according to Iquitos police. General of Peruvian National Police of the East, Julio Mercado, said that pedestrians playing [the game] are constantly distracted in the roads full of vehicles.
Also, many users become involved in accidents while driving motorcycles to catch the creatures and others have become targets for wrongdoers who take their mobile phones.
Drivers aren't limiting themselves to motorcycle taxis, however, and some services are making boats available to players who want to find Pokémon on the Amazon river.
20 soles ($6.00) per hour. That's it.
Iquitos, incidentally, isn't the only city offering Pokémon-Go-related services. In Fortaleza, the Brazilian state capital of Ceará, there are similar reports of motorcycle taxi drivers earning extra money thanks to the search for Pokémons.
Thirty-two-year-old driver Denis Paz, for instance, used Facebook to announce that he is making his vehicle available to “Pokemaniacs,” so they can visit various spots around the city:
Segundo entrevista ao Estado, em apenas 24 horas ele recebeu mais de 50 pedidos para agendar “tours” através da cidade. “Inicialmente quero cobrar R$ 25 por hora”, disse. “Acho que pode ser um negócio promissor.”
According to an interview with [the Paulista news outlet] Estado, in only 24 hours [Denis] got over 50 requests to reserve “tours” all around the city. “At first, I'd like to charge R$25 (about $7.80 in US dollars) per hour,” he noted. “I think this can be a promising business.”
On Twitter, the new industry is also getting some notice:
Motorcycle taxi drivers in Fortaleza take advantage of Pokémon-Go fever to score some extra rides.
It remains to been seen if these are isolated cases when it comes to Pokémon Go boosting local transport markets, or perhaps this is a sign of things to come elsewhere, as the Japanese game and augmented reality in general grow more mainstream.