Pokémon Go, the augmented reality mobile phone game released in early July is currently a great hit all over the world as it was expected to be before its release. It broke records on Apple’s App store and Google Play for its 75 million downloads including celebrities like the pop singer Justin Bieber and even the democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Pokémon Go made $200M in global revenue in just one month. The game is free to download but there are some in-app purchases that users need to buy for additional items. It had beaten top ranked games such as Candy Crush and Clash Royale. The fever of this game is so fast compared to the aforesaid games and it is said that Pokémon Go has earned its record of the fastest game to reach over 10 million downloads worldwide. Recently, I went on a trip to Hong Kong and I was very surprised to see that everyone was holding their mobile phones to play Pokémon Go. The game is so addictive that some companies posted a warning saying to not chase fictional video game characters all day and save it for break time or else they will be fired so as to give plenty of time to “catch them all”. The game attracted people’s interest way before it was released due to memories of loving Pokémon in their childhood. Some might think that this is a huge progress on game technology. However, augmented reality, so called AR, existed since 2011. The game is very simple. The mechanics are basically following a satellite generated map. All you have to do is just walk around a neighborhood till your smart phone vibrates. When it vibrates, it means that there’s a Pokémon near you. What you have to do is to switch on your phone’s camera and take aim at the Pokémon and throw the Poké Ball at it.
Although Pokémon Go is a great hit, South Korea is one of the countries that have yet to launch the game. What’s ironic is that across the opposite side of DMZ, Pokémon Go works in North Korea. Paradoxically, even though Pokémon Go has not launched formally in South Korea, over one million Koreans have downloaded the game. It is because a small seaside town called Sokcho which is 20 miles away from the DMZ in South Korea, people found out that the game works. After this discovery became public, people from all sides of Korea bought tickets to Sokcho and dashed to capture a Pokémon of their very own. If you want to head to Sokcho and need bus tickets, you should buy your tickets early because they usually sell out in advance. Even soldiers were not able to buy tickets to return to their unit after their break.
If you arrive in Sokcho, you will see an old man dressed like Professor Oak which is a character in Pokémon. Actually, he is the mayor of Sokcho and he is trying his best to attract more visitors to Sokcho since Pokémon Go is booming the economy in Sokcho. The mayor has placed extra Wi-Fi in places to thank the Pokémon Go users for coming all the way to Sokcho.
However, the bad news is that Pokémon Go’s data is pulled from Niantic’s previous game ‘Ingress’ Unlike most countries, when a user plays ‘Ingress’ here in Korea, they will experience no streets and just green backgrounds. So it is expected to take a while for users to play Pokémon Go in a proper version like other countries do.
There are many influencing things all over the world. Economically, Pokémon Go boomed battery pack sales. Battery packs demand has grown by 101 percent in just 2 weeks after the game was released.
Last month, Iran banned Pokémon Go due to security issues. Iranian authorities didn't specifically say what kinds of security concerns they are worried about. So Iran became the first country to ban Pokémon Go. Furthermore, in Indonesia, police officers are prohibited to play the game while on duty.
Korea is also joining forces to develop an augmented reality game called ‘Pororo Go’ mirroring the success of Pokémon Go. Pororo is a famous cartoon series which began in 2003 which is still popular among children. While Pokémon has hundreds of Pokémon as it has been over two decades of its history, Pororo has only few characters. Furthermore, people are concerned that it won’t attract interest as much as Pokémon Go since Pororo is aimed for children aged from about 3 to 8. Others don’t feel comfortable and proud at all of copying a game like the way China did a few days after the launch of Pokémon Go.
There were various things that happened after Pokémon Go came out. Two days after the game launched, in the town of Riverton, a teenager walking around to catch a Pokémon found a dead body near a river. She said she was just walking to find a Pokémon until she ran into a corpse lying down to her left and called the police. In California, two men were too focused on catching a Pokémon that they fell off a cliff about 80 feet down to the beach. Luckily, both of them survived the accident. Last month, a man was playing the game with his friend at a San Francisco park when his friend was shot by a gunman. Furthermore, a 28 year-old man who was playing Pokémon Go while driving, crashed into a tree. These incidents show us that Pokémon Go is sweeping the world.
Moreover, since criminals are trying to take advantage of players, the game’s developer, Niantic released a patch. They received data from the national sex offender registry so that the users would know whether any sex offenders are near them whenever searching for Pokémon. When a sex offender is near you within a one mile radius, Pokémon characters would howl at you to keep the users safe. This patch was mainly revised for children because sometimes they can get so focused on catching a Pokémon that they encounter or go into a sex offender’s property. Besides, crimes such as robbery occur at a Pokéstop where users go to earn game items.
The Pokémon Go has definitely made its reputation in the world and it looks like the Pokémon Go fever will last pretty long. The game really made people’s life entertaining, but it has also made unintended unfortunate consequences. On the good side, the game has started a whole new chapter of augmented reality that will apply to our daily lives soon enough.
Jeong Seung-in, reporter email@example.com
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