How an augmented reality game (Pokémon GO) affected volunteer contributions to OpenStreetMap
Keywords: volunteered geographic information, crowdsourced geographic data, OSM, mobile gaming
Abstract. OpenStreetMap (OSM) has become one of the largest sources of volunteered geographic information (VGI), and the data is now used for a wide range of applications. A massively popular augmented reality game, Pokémon GO, recently adopted OSM data for its in-game map and many of its in-game mechanics. This study investigated: (1) How Pokémon GO affected the quantity of daily contributors and daily edits to OSM in South Korea (the only country where OSM data was used exclusively since the game’s launch); and (2) How the game affected volunteers’ contribution habits. The main findings were: (i) the number of daily contributors and daily edits both increased by more than 17 times following the launch of Pokémon GO in South Korea, but returned to more normal levels after around 1½ months; (ii) Most individuals contributing to OSM because of Pokémon GO reportedly did so to improve the in-game map appearance and in-game mechanics; and (iii) Individuals motivated to contribute to OSM because of Pokémon GO tended to create/edit OSM “park” and “water body” features more than other OSM contributors. It is notable that the large increases in OSM contributors and edits occurred even in the absence of any formal guidance or encouragement by the game operator or other parties. If greater efforts are made to encourage participation in VGI initiatives linked to AR games, the observed impacts will likely be even more dramatic.