The new Pokémon Go app, released in the U.S. on July 7th, quickly became the biggest mobile game in U.S. history… in terms of daily users. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the game isn’t available in mainland China (or is it?).
The first Monday after the game’s release there were over 21 million active users in the United States alone according to Survey Monkey; with usage peeking at 25 million active users on July 14th. Some worry this may be a fad as daily active users are dropping; however, latest numbers show it’s still over 20 million. This only includes U.S. iOS and Android users, and not the 27 other countries currently playing the game. For example, the game only just launched in Japan, the birthplace of Pokémon, on Friday July 22nd and according to Android Central it just went live in 15 Asian countries, including Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore yesterday. The previous record holder for daily active players in the U.S. was Candy Crush with 20 million at its peak.
WHAT IS POKEMON GO?
Pokémon Go is a multiplayer, location-based, augmented reality game for iOS and Android. It was developed in collaboration between The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, and Niantic, Inc., and is free to download with in-app purchases. It uses satellite locations, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters for you to capture in real-world settings. You can then go a “gym” and battle your Pokémon against other trainers (also real people).
Check out this Beginner’s Guide to Pokémon Go video to learn more.
HOW TO PLAY WHILE IN CHINA
Unlike Iran, where the country’s High Council of Virtual Spaces has officially banned the Pokémon Go app, China hasn’t yet banned the game… it’s just extremely difficult to play for those in mainland China where internet access is restricted. Those in the greater China regions of Hong Kong and Taiwan are free to chase the little critters to their hearts content. In fact, yesterday Hong Kong held the city’s first ever “Pokémon Walk” where hundreds gathered in the financial district of Central to catch the critters together. The game has been available there since July 22nd and has attracted crowds of hundreds to tourist spots across the Hong Kong.
For those wanting to play in mainland China you have three options:
1) Try playing the game as-is;
2) Play the game while “spoofing” your location; or
3) Try the Chinese version of the game
The first two options will require that you first get the game; something that isn’t easy to do unless you have a VPN. Yes, you can find the app for download from third-party websites; however, Niantic Labs, the app’s developer has stated on their official Facebook account that unofficial versions of “Pokémon GO” downloaded from third-party websites may contain malware or viruses, so be careful.
PLAYING THE GAME ‘AS-IS’ IN MAINLAND CHINA
If you’re successful in downloading, installing and launching the game, you’ll quickly notice that there isn’t much there. “The main point of the game is the cool virtual worlds and the chance to catch hundreds of Pokémon,” tells me Attila Steven, founder of a Virtual Reality adult entertainment start-up in Shenzhen. “I checked all the way from Coastal Rose Garden to Walmart and unfortunately, the virtual environment isn’t great and I only saw three Pokémon.” So technically the game is there; however, there isn’t much to do yet.
PLAYING THE GAME WHILE ‘SPOOFING’ YOUR LOCATION
Since the game uses GPS and augmented reality technology, if you’d like to play the game and see all the cool virtual reality and try to catch hundreds of little monsters, than you’ll need to be “in” a place that has that already built. According to the Los Angeles Times, users in China have found a way to do this. Pokémon fans in mainland China turned to installing virtual GPS or GPS Faker to pretend they are actually somewhere else. These apps can easily be found by doing a search in your app store. We took a look for ourselves and found many that claim to do this. In fact, some have already added to their descriptions and/or have reviews that say they work great with Pokémon Go.
Out of curiosity, we tried this out for ourselves; however, and it seems we may have been too late. The game developers have caught on that people have been doing this and have found a way to block this from working.
We spent some time researching online and found that to get this technique to work, you’ll now need to do more than simply install a GPS faker. It’s not easy or quick to do; however, if you’ve got the hours to spend playing the game you probably have the time to do this as well.
An important consideration when trying this is to avoid detection. The developers have stated that they will ban people from playing if they find out you’re breaking their terms (in which faking your location is a no-no).
If you haven’t been scared away yet, search for a module under the Xposed framework and you’ll find everything you need. It’s received hundreds of thousands of downloads in the last few days with 21,000 in the last 24 hours. To fool the game, you need to change your GPS data without your phone realizing that you’re doing it. To do this, you’ll need to root your device.
TRY THE CHINESE VERSION OF THE GAME
If you’re in mainland China and want to play but just can’t be bothered with the steps we’ve described, you can always try the Chinese version of the game. That’s right. Nothing is real yet unless it’s been copied in China and Pokémon Go is no exception. In fact, the Chinese version of the game, 城市精靈Go (City Monster/Spirit Go), was released in March by Shenzhen developer Tanyu Mobi and currently has 1 million daily users. Yes, that’s right, released in China even before Niantic Labs released Pokémon Go. That means we probably won’t see Pokémon Go launch in China unless the developers will be willing to pay royalties.
Anyway, City Monster/Spirit Go features a creature in the app icon that looks like Pikachu and has the same elements as Pokémon Go; including location-tracking, allowing users to find monsters in various areas around them. While there are some differences in the gameplay and orientation of this game, developers have said they did not “consider any factors from Pokemon Go” even if one of their art designers is a big fan of Pokémon. Their analysts suggested that Pokémon Go may not gain popularity in China unless the game is localized to compete against the popularity of City Monster/Spirit Go. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.