Looking to cash in on the Pokémon Go sensation, a flood of imitation apps have hit the App Store, confusing fans, and, in some cases, rocketing to the top of the charts. This practice has been made easier by Niantic: Pokémon Go’s troubled launch has seen it delay its worldwide rollout, with only a few select countries having intentional access to the app. Canada was, until recently, one of those waiting countries; gripped with Pokémon fever and envious of their Southern counterparts, Canadians sought to get their Pokémon fix any way possible. While some have found workarounds to the absence of Pokémon Go—I used my American iTunes account to download Pokémon Go out of fear of missing out on capturing gyms early on— many others have mistakenly downloaded another app: Pokedex for Pokémon Go.
Created by 16 year old Akshat Jagga, the app, released in May well in advance of Pokémon Go’s release, has found itself suddenly at the top of the paid charts in the Canadian App Store. He seems sincere in his adoration of Pokémon and gaming at large, describing the series as creating an “emotional connect” between itself and players. “The story of Ash is very near to most of us…the way he leaves his home and ventures out to become a Pokémon master,” Jagga says via email and again over FaceTime.
“Pokémon Go is further extending this virtual experience by encouraging fans to hunt for those loveable characters, which they are really fond of, in their real life…For some, their childhood cravings are coming to life through this game.”
He began coding a few years ago, he says, and has released three other apps on the App Store, including a themed Helicopter clone, a photo caption generator, and an aggregator of sorts for writers. These all seem like the kinds of apps a student makes to test the waters of app design and sales—they’re all free and somewhat limited in their design.
Ostensibly a paid Pokedex, his newest app delivers on its promise of including information on Pokémon descriptions, types, and attacks in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
“I saw the potential of how many people are going crazy about it. I saw the lack of good apps that could complement it, so users could use alongside the game itself. It was meant to be useful for people. I collected information from all the sources I possibly could and presented the Pokedex,” Jagga says.
It may be somewhat underwhelming with its included information, but this is a perfectly serviceable app that lives up to its description. But its name has undoubtedly caused confusion, with a deluge of negative reviews slamming the app and demanding a refund.
“Thought it was the real thing and wasted my money,” bemoans one user. Another user says he “thought that it was the legit Pokémon game it caught me trippen and I realized it’s a fake.”
“I see an encouraging response of my app,” Jagga says. “The spike [in sales] is in the recent days…mainly Asia Pacific, Canada, and USA”.
According to Jagga, his app is about convenience. “[It’s] almost impossible for any individual to search, collect & organize” all the information his app includes. When asked why someone may legitimately purchase his app, when free alternatives such as Google searches exist, Jagga responds that it is because he offers “an ad free experience without any interruptions or pop ups.”
This meshed with my experience with the app. I’ve been searching for Pokémon all over my home province, taking in landmarks and attractions I may not have otherwise seen. However, short of a few welcome WiFi hubs scattered about, I’ve been draining my cell phone’s data allowance, slowly but surely, in my journey to “catch ‘em all”. Pokedex for Pokémon Go was a welcome tool for when I wanted to remember details about a Pokémon without need for searching all over the web—it has information conveniently bundled within, though still does require an Internet connection.
None of this answers if his app is a cash-in on the popularity of Pokémon Go, however. Jagga lays some of the blame with Niantic.
“People have been waiting for Pokémon Go for months together and craved for a smooth and timely release across all subcontinents at one go,” Jagga says. “I wished Niantic could have been a bit more vocal about their actions which would have facilitated…a uniform environment for all gamers across the globe.”
I press Jagga, echoing numerous user reviews, if he is taking advantage of Pokémon Go’s name, particularly in markets where it hasn’t launched yet.
“See, my app is related to the Pokémon characters which enumerates their profile, their stats and evolution… Pokedex, as the name goes, implies only the collection of these Pokémon,” Jagga says. “The app is seeing polar behaviour. Some are extremely happy with the service and some are dissatisfied. They did not know the services of the app and they did not know what they were buying in to. Everything the users have asked for has been fixed,” Jagga stresses.
“Nowhere in the screenshots or description of the app [is it] ever mentioned to create any amount of confusion among the users indicating or relating this with the Pokémon Go game.”
Except, of course, the direct reference to Pokémon Go in the name’s title?
“Pokedex for Pokémon Go strictly implies [a] collection of all the characters which the user may find in the game Pokémon Go,” he responds.
Jagga asks me about myself at this point, noting that thus far we’ve spoken only of him and his app at this point. It feels like a deflection—have I struck a nerve?—before ending abruptly.
I push him on this point as he repeats, multiple times, that no gameplay is ever depicted in the screenshots or in the app’s description.
“As far as my views go, there’s nothing misleading in the title itself. This is a Pokedex for Pokémon Go. This is an accessory app for it. People already knew that Pokémon Go was going to be free because of the in-app purchases…why would they then spend money on these things?”
I don’t think Akshat Jagga initially meant to take advantage of Pokémon fans. His Pokedex feels at home with his other releases, fitting comfortably as an app made by someone learning the trade, with no real intention at finding widespread success.
When I first mentioned his app hit #1 in Canada, Jagga said he was “excited…it’s doing pretty good in Canada!” Today, his app’s description proclaims “RANKED NO.1 IN CANADA!!!”
His Pokedex has hit #1 in five countries at one time or another—Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Thailand—but has since fallen off the top spot in most territories. Jagga tells me he “think[s] the Pokémon Go craze is going down.” Maybe the sensation hasn’t died down with the release in my country…maybe the confusion has.
When I first stumbled upon this Pokedex, anxiously searching for Pokémon Go, it was priced at $0.99. His app shot up in price to $1.39 after I first conversed with him. Today, now that Pokémon Go is finally out in Canada, it has returned to its $0.99 price tag.
I can’t shake this feeling that what started out as a fun experiment for a young developer has since become a cash cow to be exploited.
I can’t blame him, really. Would I do differently if it were me?
Evan McIntosh is a Canadian educator and freelance writer. He is the founder of Good Games Writing, which, sadly, doesn’t have its own PokeStop.