Will Pokémon Go BIG in China?

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Ok, if you don’t know, you have been in the cave the last few weeks – Pokémon Go is a massive gaming sensation globally. But, you are probably wondering will it be huge phenomena in China. Question answered below.

Yes, Chinese love Pokémon too, so same retro interest

A very savvy generation of Pokémon fans exists in China, as it does globally. The timing of the TV series and associate pop culture coincided with a particularly liberal time in China’s mediascape, where many foreign formats, especially Japanese content, was available on China’s increasing number of regional and satellite TV stations.

Mid to late-millennials, like elsewhere, has a huge curiosity in the game after it was released in the US, Australia and New Zealand on July 6th. With local social media providing detailed tutorials on how to subscribe to a US-based Google accounts and reliable VPN so curious netizens could access the game, event though it is, as yet, unreleased in China.  This includes the ability to buy a U.S. Store ID on B2C bazaar Taobao.

So the will, the retro context, and curiosity is here, as elsewhere.

Yes, Chinese are in-to augmented reality

Despite Pokémon Go not being released or available in China yet, clone copies are already available and proving super popular. On the Chinese iOS App Store the most popular game is a Pokémon Go knock-off – City Spirit Go. The main character is looks like the love child of Pikachu and a raccoon.

While not including an augmented reality (AR) functionality, the game copies the key ideas of the game, allowing players to move around and capture Pokemon around them, with the AR features replaced by a cartoon-based map.

So, yes, the gaming format is a GO in China also, even its non-AR clone is ‘killing’ it.

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China’s No.1 clone – City Spirit Go

But, and it is a big But, it is China – regulation and competition

But … the reality is the Pokemon Go is not open accessible in China – the world’s largest gaming market, estimated at $7 billion in total revenues last year.  The key reason is that to access the game, you must use Google Accounts and Maps to find the Pokemons.  As Google is banned, this means “negotiation’ between Nintendo and one of China’s map providers – Alibaba or Baidu.

Even if this can be brokered, Nintendo then has to get regulatory approval from Beijing, that Pokemons will not be hiding in political sensitive places.   A process, that in its most optimistic form will take at least 80 days.

Eighty days is a long time in the history of China’s internet, you can guarantee ‘clone development’ is well well underway.  It feels the only way for Nintendo to control this process, is to identify a very powerful local partner to ‘smooth the ride’ – this will most likely be Tencent (owners of WeChat and QQ) and Alibaba.  But, the downside for  Nintendo is they will ‘pay through the teeth’ for the privilege.

Louis Lu, a China-based digital strategist described the equation in the following way, the Chinese version will equate to “Baidu map + Tencent Game + China Government Monitoring”.  If Pokemon Go makes it, it will most likely be in a diluted form – or not all, as a clone.

The decisive factor will be if China’s internet giants “collaborate” or “clone” Pokemon Go – we will see very soon

 

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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