'Give us a Chinese-language version of Pokémon', China's passionate gamers proclaim

Chinese fans of the long-running monster catching series are petitioning Nintendo

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 8:59pm

Nintendo’s popular Pokémon video game series has sold over 200 million copies in the last decade, raising an entire generation of young monster trainers on the mantra “gotta catch ‘em all”.

Now, Chinese Pokémon fans are clamouring that they would love to start catching the franchise’s titular creatures in their native language.

In a petition posted on the popular fan website 52Poké.com, nearly 10,000 supporters have expressed their desire to see the newest entries in the series, Pokémon X and Y, officially translated into the Chinese language.

Addressed to Tsunekazu Ishihara and Junichi Masuda, overseers of the Nintendo subsidiary that publishes and promotes the games, the petition is signed by “Chinese Pokémon fans everywhere” and thanks the creators for “introducing us to the wondrous world of Pokémon and creating infinite encounters and smiles around our world”.

The petition goes on to address a harsh reality, explaining that even though Pokémon is a well-known franchise in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the games have never received an official localisation in either traditional or simplified Chinese.

While some fans with technical know-how have hacked the code of older Pokémon titles to produce unofficial Chinese-language bootlegs, such efforts are few, and most players settle for playing imported versions of the games in either Japanese or English.

“Enthusiastic Pokémon fans from the Greater China region…share one long-cherished dream [of] adding in-game Chinese support in Pokémon video games,” the petition reads. “Many potential consumers of Pokémon games in the Greater China region cannot read foreign languages. Even for the senior fans like us, playing Pokémon games in our native language and having a deeper understanding of the beautiful Pokémon universe is our biggest dream.”

The petition also touches upon market restrictions, including a 13 year ban that the Chinese government imposed on foreign-made console games from 2000 onwards. The ban, when combined with rampant software piracy, likely contributed towards Nintendo’s reluctance to localise Pokémon for Chinese markets.

“Mainland China has loosened the restrictions on video games recently,” the petition states. “Both Microsoft and Sony are entering…China through partnerships with local vendors, and [Nintendo] can also consider a direct sales channel supported by the powerful e-commerce platforms in China.

“Also, the government…[recently] re-emphasised it would strengthen copyright protection for video games. The [video game] industry’s ecology has substantially improved in mainland China…[and] genuine copies of Pokémon games have already become the dominant choice among current fans.”

The petition concludes by arguing that the Pokémon anime and comic books were adapted for Chinese audiences over a decade ago, leaving many familiar with the terminology and story behind the franchise with only the games themselves still remaining inaccessible.

“As Chinese is the native language spoken by the most people in the world, adding in-game Chinese support will take the franchise’s worldwide success to new heights,” it reads. 

News of the petition has spread, and online communities on Chinese social media services like Sina Weibo and the Baidu message boards have pledged their support.

Nearly 3,000 Baidu forum commentators have taken to posting photos of their Pokémon video game collections online, usually complete with signs pleading for Nintendo to respond to their wishes. 

“I’ve hoped for [a Chinese version of Pokémon] for many years,” one Baidu poster wrote. “So far, I’ve only played the English translations, and when I couldn’t play the English I played the Japanese.”

“I’ve always been very fond of Pokémon,” another wrote. “I was even able to improve my English proficiency by playing the games, but I still would love to enjoy them in my mother tongue.”

Nintendo has yet to respond to the petition. With the end of China's ban on console games, the company has begun releasing Chinese-language versions of some of its other famous video game titles, including Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.

The latest entries in the Pokémon franchise are currently only available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Korean.



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