Late last year, Chinese officials banned Pokemon GO from being released in the country due to safety concerns. While the Google services require to play the game are already unavailable in the region, the statement that it could pose a ‘threat’ to players was another blow to the chances of the game ever officially being released in China.
But things could soon be set to change, according to one eagle-eyed player who recently visited the country. Writing on social media, the Pokemon GO player explains that during a month long trip to the Chinese city of Taiyuan, they spotted Rattata, Vulpix, and Spinarak on the in-game list of ‘nearby’ Pokemon. Within an hour, two PokeStops, a Gym and an Exeggutor raid (at that same Gym) all showed up at the same location of Taiyuan landmarks. A Farfetch’d even showed up in the middle of a road on the way to the raid.
Although the Pokemon on the nearby list, the PokeStop, the Gym, and the raid were removed shortly after and although GPS features and map details were not working properly, fans remain convinced that a full Pokemon GO launch for China is happening soon. Some fans have noted that similar situations in India and Japan occurred about three weeks before the game launched fully in those regions.
If Pokemon GO really is headed to China that could mean big things for Niantic’s bank account, at least. Pokemon GO has already made over $1 billion in revenue, but a Chinese release may be extremely lucrative for the company.
An estimated 366 million people in China play mobile games; more than the entire population of the United States. And although there is no guarantee that all of those millions of mobile players will flock to the game, a great many of them will, and they will be ready to spend on Pokemon GO too.
However, the release could also pose a significant technical headache for Niantic. Pokemon GO suffered from server problems at launch, struggling to cope with the demand and it resulted in the game’s worldwide launch being delayed. Moreover, as the recent Pokemon GO Fest debacle showed, any time that lots of people are playing the game in one spot the game can struggle to keep up. Niantic may already be working to ensure that the Chinese launch goes smoothly and does not affect the stability of play in other regions, hence these early tests, so fingers crossed that all goes well.
Pokemon GO is out now on Android and iOS.