Almost two years after its global launch, Pokémon Go is now finally coming to China — arguably one of the world’s largest gaming market.
Pokémon Go developer Niantic reportedly struck a partnership with local video games company NetEase to bring the popular mobile game to the Chinese market. The launch date for the game in China has yet to be disclosed.
Launched in July 2016 to global anticipation, Pokémon Go was initially a hit, with hundreds of millions of downloads from fans worldwide upon its release. In an interview with the Financial Times, Niantic’s chief executive John Hanke said the move to China is a bid to regain the title’s popularity, admitting that revenues dropped in 2017 following a massive decline in user base.
“In 2016, our hair was blown back by the launch and the after-effects of the [Pokémon Go] launch,” Hanke was quoted as saying. “Revenues [in 2017] were not as high as they were in 2016 for the year but they were very strong.”
Hanke noted that a small but “solid” community of Pokémon Go players witnessed more regular updates and additional features such as real-world weather and others in 2017.
While a release in China will certainly bring revenue for the company, it is unclear how Niantic plans to find a workaround to the country’s strict regulations. Last year, China’s censoring agency cited potential threats to national security and personal safety when it refused to license the game, Reuters reports. Google’s geolocation feature, in which Pokémon Go heavily relies on for gameplay, is also blocked in China.
Aside from Pokémon Go, Niantic is also launching a new Harry Potter game and a host of other titles in China.