Would you pay someone to hunt your Pokemon?

In the last few months, Brandon Tan has started to make a living from chasing Pokémon.

Story highlights

  • Professional Pokemon GO hunters can profit from playing the game
  • Developer Niantic trying to crack down on the trade and threatening cheaters with bans

Singapore (CNN)The sun has set, and a small corner of the Singaporean residential district of Hougang is packed.

People stand, sit and loiter around. Their eyes are glued to the screens of their smartphones, fingers swiping upwards in a now familiar gesture. The Pokemon hunters have come out to play.
    Stationed smack-dab in the middle of the playground is the king of the hunters -- Brandon Tan. He is set up with his own table and chairs, power banks and a supply of water.
    He means business, quite literally.
    With four devices on the go at once, he advertises his Pokemon GO-playing service for $18 (25 SGD) an hour.
    It's just one of the ways in which creative individuals have found ways to make money from a game that has become a worldwide phenomenon since its launch earlier this year.

    Full-time player

    "Me doing this is actually just to have some fun, because if I were to play just one account, I feel bored," Tan tells CNN against a soundtrack of beeps and chirps from four simultaneous games.
    He apologizes for not making eye contact; he needs to keep his eyes on the screens because he has a pair of clients to play for on top of his own two accounts.
    An avid gamer, the 25-year-old used to work in an insurance firm, but he quit in 2015 when he discovered he could earn money from making YouTube videos of himself playing Clash of Clans, another popular smartphone game.
    Now he says he doesn't even have time to edit his videos -- which feature a running commentary -- because he's too busy playing Pokemon GO from 6pm to 6am, seven days a week.
    He's been approached by up to 26 clients since he started offering his services playing Pokemon GO in August. It's earned him around $2,200 (3,000 SGD) so far, but Tan says money wasn't his main motivation.
    "I wanted to show people how I play games. Not many people believe how I play," he says.
    Since offering to play Pokemon GO for free would trigger a deluge of requests, Tan decided to set a price. "I only have two hands and could probably play only a maximum of five accounts, not 50!"

    Professional hunters

    Tan is far from being the only Pokemon GO pro.
    39-year-old Jeremy Chin is a civil servant by day and a rare Pokemon collector by night.
    He proudly shows CNN his collection of rare animated monsters caught with the help of third-party radar maps and Twitter accounts that provide tips on where rare Pokemon are spawning.
    Pokemon GO's creators, Niantic Labs, have been shutting down third-party apps like the maps Chin uses, saying that these external parties affect their "ability to deliver the game to new and existing players."
    Not that he is dissuaded.
    "I get to see the sights of Singapore, where I have not gone before," he says of his hunting experience. "I also take it as a form of exercise. I've already lost about 1.5kg (11lbs) since this game started."
    Funniest moments from Pokemon Go hysteria
    Funniest moments from Pokemon Go hysteria


      Funniest moments from Pokemon Go hysteria


    Funniest moments from Pokemon Go hysteria 02:01
    He provides his hunting service to others, but says he restricts his expertise to his own circle of friends and doesn't usually charge, preferring his buddies to buy him drinks in return.
    Another seller, who only wanted to be known as PoGo Pirate, says the market caters to those who have spending power but lack the free time to catch and collect rare Pokemon themselves.
    PoGo Pirate does not play the game at all. He hires others -- through private connections he did not disclose -- to play the game, before selling Level 30 accounts on for about $18 (25 SGD) each. He says he's already sold about 300 accounts, both to Singaporean and international players.

    Can Niantic beat the cheats?

    Niantic Labs chief executive John Hanke told Forbes in July that he was "not a fan" of third-party apps like radar maps.
    Pro players operate multiple accounts at once
    "People are only hurting themselves because it takes some fun out of the game. People are hacking around trying to take data out of our system," he said.
    And in August, the developer said it was done with cheaters.
    In a firmly worded blog post, Niantic said it would continue to terminate any accounts that showed signs of cheating. "After reviewing many reports of in-game cheating, we have started taking action against players taking unfair advantage of and abusing Pokemon GO," the company said.
    A quick search online however turns up numerous sellers of Pokemon GO accounts that tout high levels and rare Pokemon.
    It's against the rules, but PoGo Pirate doesn't think there's much developers like Niantic can do.
    He says the practice existed long before Pokemon GO came on the scene.
    "They will never be able to police the sales -- there's always a way around it."