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‘Pokémon GO’ was an obsession three months ago. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg
‘Pokémon GO’ was an obsession three months ago. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

Why hasn’t ‘Pokemon GO’ come to India?

Long after the game took the world by storm, people in India continue having to settle for a diluted experience

ThePokémon GO craze is dying down. There was a time after its launch in July when the Internet was alive with news of people stampeding for Pokémon. There were stories of road accidents because of people Poké-ing while driving; whole countries were in panic, issuing instructions for Pokémon players. Now, the obsession seems to have died down. In an effort to put a defibrillator to its dwindling little heart, Niantic, the developers, have organized several events. Yet, five months after the game was released, it has not officially launched in India.

Pokémon GO is an augmented reality game that lets you capture little creatures that pop up on your phone when you are at particular physical locations. As you walk around the streets of your city, Pokémon keep appearing, and you collect them. You then train your Pokémon army and unleash it against other players. Pokémon GO features some impressive mapping technology from Google Maps. Playing it was exciting, as the idea of a game that merged fantasy with the real world was novel. And the best part was that this was a game that got you out of your chair and exploring your city.

Despite launching in just a few countries, the game was played around the world. People in countries such as India couldn’t download the app on to their phones, but they found ways to download it on to their computers and then sideload it on to their phones. Or they managed to download it from the American app store. Niantic had to block the game in all of south India to reduce strain on their servers. Pokémon GO took a while even to officially launch in Pokémon’s home country, Japan—it finally did, in late July.

Sideloading the game from your computer gives you access to most of the activities, and you can even find some rare Pokémon, but you will not get the full experience. You will get an endless supply of the common Rattatas and Pidgeys. You won’t find rare Pokémon appearing in certain places and you won’t be able to take part in events along with the rest of the world. Also, it’s a big bother having to keep sideloading updates, and Niantic has got a lot of enhancements up its sleeve.

So why hasn’t Pokémon GO launched in India? Perhaps Niantic is waiting for the phenomenon of Pokémon GO to really reach its ebb before reviving it by launching in India. They may see us as a large group of eager players with smartphones waiting for table scraps to be thrown to us. Or perhaps it has less to do with Niantic’s strategy and more to do with our own country. When people in India began playing Pokémon GO, some public interest litigations were filed, asking for the game to be banned. They were offended that the game placed virtual eggs at places of worship, especially since many Indians are vegetarian.

Foreseeing resistance if they did an official launch, Niantic may have decided to sidestep India.

For enthusiastic gamers still waiting for the full Pokémon GO experience, all we can do is hope and wait. Maybe the game will finally come to us officially. Until then we can continue to enjoy what we can, with the exception of those in south India. If it does eventually come here, will we really care? Is it worth playing the game now that the rest of the world is already on its way to finding all the Pokémon, levelling them up and training them into fighting machines? When you come in with your Level 10 Rattata, bringing absolutely nothing to the fight, you might feel like the world has already has had its fun and we’re the children who’ve got permission to go out and play after everyone’s gone back inside.

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