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Pokemon Go

Beijing’s ban puts stop to Pokemon Go in China

Authorities ban global hit augmented reality game, saying cartoon monster diversion is too big a risk to public and national safety

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 9:56am

Chinese online game fans have been disappointed by a government decision to put a stop to ­Pokemon Go because of national security concerns.

The authorities announced on Tuesday that the hit augmented reality (AR) location-based mobile game was a danger to consumer safety and national security.

“Given overseas consumer experience and cases, the game presents a big social risk, such as posing a threat to geographical ­information security, public transport safety and personal safety,” a gaming industry association ­under the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said in a ­notice.

Pokemon Go involves players catching cartoon characters in the real world by combining global positioning system technology and Google Maps.

It was ranked the most popular mobile phone application in 70 nations in the first month of its ­release in July.

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But the association’s notice said the administration needed to consider national security implications when making its assessment of the game, it said.

“The administration, for the time being, will not approve such a game,” the notice said.

“Domestic operators have to be very cautious when doing research, introducing and operating similar games.”

For mainland game users, the game City Elves Go, which uses AR location-based technology, is available for download on mobile phones on the mainland.

A representative of Tanyu.mobi, which released City Elves Go, said the company did not think its game would be adversely affected by the announcement.

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The Alipay online payment platform – affiliated to Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post – and online company Tencent also offer their own AR ­location-based features, which have not been banned by the ­authorities. In the Alipay feature, players win cash by collecting red packets.

An Alipay spokesman acknowledged that the company had seen reports about mainland authorities banning some AR ­location-based games, but declined to comment further.

Zhuhai-based online game enthusiast Zhen Jianghua, 31, said it was “a huge loss to gamers” that Pokemon Go could not be played on the mainland just yet.

“We are now stuck at home playing Chinese internet games that require topping-up with money all the time, or playing ­other AR location-based games, such as City Elves Go, which have very poor quality graphics,” Zhen said.

Pokemon Go is an excellent game because it allows us to go out and battle real-time users face to face and has outstanding ­visuals.”

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Daniel Zhou, a 20-year-old student and Pokemon fan, said he was disappointed that Pokemon Go would not be available on the mainland.

“If Pokemon Go could come to China, I could share my interest in these iconic [cartoon] characters,” Zhou said.

“Few people understand what I am doing when I tell them my hobby is playing Pokemon games or planning battle strategies.

“Pokemon games have been part of my whole childhood ... what keeps me still playingPokemongames is the complex battle system behind it.”

Additional reporting by Zen Soo