I really do want to be excited for the release of Pokémon GO, a new MMOARG (Massively Multiplayer Online Augmented Reality Game) themed around the world of Pokémon. I’ve been following the production of this app for months now. Not that this is the dedication of a cultist fanatic, we have the simplicity and convenience of clicking a “Subscribe” button on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or your other poison of choice on the internet. Word got out quickly that Pokémon GO was released and boy was I EXCITED. I was.
I tweeted about it. I shared it with my friends. I started browsing for more workout clothing and summer apparel with the intent in the back of my mind to have the look of a Pokémon trainer without being too obvious about it. Austin, TX has numerous hike and bike trails through forested areas, rivers, hills, and plains. Being a 30-something who grew up on Pokémon I have felt the stigma of having a place in my heart reserved for a piece of pop culture directed at children. I can suit up like a Pokémon trainer and no one would look at me twice with all the other exercise and outdoor enthusiasts wearing the same brightly colored underarmor, camelbacks, and athletic gear. But I digress.
Niantic is making it difficult to stay excited. The app has apparently been released (as of 5/5/2016) in Australia and New Zealand but is region locked nearly everywhere else. I stayed up late searching for any information I could. Confirming that my LG Android is compatible, confirming that others in the U.S. are experiencing the same thing, confirming that many of those who DO access it are using… less than official methods.
Users have found workarounds of course to jump into the Pokémon world as soon as humanly possible. iPhone users have created Australian iTunes accounts, and Android users have created an APK (Android Application Package File), a user-created file to install software. While I don’t recommend it, it is an option for those willing to risk potential consequences such as viruses, malware, or even the wrath of Niantic if the company should decide that it violates their TOS.
I actually downloaded an APK for the app, ran a virus scan on it, and sat with my finger in the trigger to install it onto my device. So many users in the Americas and Europe were reporting that they are logged in and having fun but a few things I read stopped me.
Niantic runs a similar application named Ingress which also has users traversing the real world for the digital game. They are serious about stopping people from ‘cheating’ by falsifying their location, as evidenced by their statement about cracking down on those who falsify location. To download the Pokémon GO APK I had to set my region to New Zealand, which doesn’t strike me as morally wrong, but may trigger Niantic’s automated anti-cheat systems. It doesn’t seem to be worth the risk.
Why has there been no official statement from Niantic? They are sitting on a hotbed of users so utterly excited about their application that they’re willing to troubleshoot, workaround, hack, and slash their way just to actually play. Many users I’ve seen are finally getting their hands on the game at midnight and STILL willing to run out into the streets and forests to search for Pokémon. Your userbase is RAVENOUS Niantic, it makes no sense to me that they haven’t so much as tweeted “We are working to resolve the issues.”
This is all less than 24 hours after what appears to be the NZ/AUS release of Pokémon GO. The radio silence from Niantic is concerning. Was this all an accident? Is the game supposed to release? When should we expect release in Europe and the Americas? It’s strange when we have to search for news about Niantic and Pokémon go through other fans, blog sites, and hell even Forbes made a post. I would really prefer to hear a first-hand statement from the source but they remain silent. Strike while the iron is hot Niantic. Even a day late you can shake the very foundation of trust and faith that so many fans have in your company.