Pokemon Go faces challenges as it prepares to enter China

Updated 2018-01-04 11:30:21 CGTN

The augmented reality (AR) mobile game that once swept the globe besides for China, is finally stepping into the world's largest mobile market.

Niantic, developer of Pokémon Go, told the Financial Times that it would bring the monster-catching game to the Chinese mainland through a partnership with NetEase, a local company that develops and operates some of China's most popular mobile games.

Niantic is counting on the launch in China to help it return to growth after revenues dropped in 2017.

"Revenues [in 2017] were not as high as they were in 2016 for the year but they were very strong." John Hanke, chief executive of Niantic, told the Financial Times.

"I would say 2017 was about firing the second stage and getting into a stable orbit," he said, referring to Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX. "2018 is about the journey to Mars."

The company didn't provide a specific date for the launch of Pokémon Go in China.

Challenges in the Chinese market

From "Honor of Kings" to "PlayerUnknown's Battleground" (PUBG), Pokémon Go will encounter both domestic and international competitors in China.

Developed by China's tech giant Tencent, "Honor of Kings" was a phenomenally popular mobile game in 2017. According to the latest research by App Annie, the online multiplayer battle game remained on top in both iOS and Google Play's most downloaded games charts.

Through an exclusive deal made last November with South Korean's game developer Bluehole, Tencent was able to bring PUBG, a Battle Royale-style "last-man-standing" multiplayer game, to Chinese players. The game had nearly 20 million sales in the first eight months after it launched, according to Steam Spy's data, making it one of the most popular mobile games in the world.

Besides for these two masculine battle games, female-oriented products such as "Love and Producer," a dating game based around experiencing romantic relationships with virtual male characters, who are played by famous voice actors, is also on the rise in China, making it even more difficult for Pokémon Go to make an impact in the world's biggest mobile market.

Safety concerns could also be a big issue in China. As the streets of major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are full of cars, small electric vehicles, bikes and pedestrians, it could be very dangerous for Pokémon Go players since the game requires people to run around outdoor and search for Pokémon while looking at their screens instead of watching the road.

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