Pokémon Go. What is it? And how can you play it in SA?
Pokémon Go may be viewed as either a revolutionary smartphone experience or potentially lethal fad. Either way, here’s an overview of the app that has soared to the top of download charts and added $7-billion in market value to Nintendo Co.
What Is Pokémon GO?
It follows the basic premise of Pokémon, a Japanese videogame and anime series where adventurers travel the world seeking Pokémon (“pocket monsters” in Japanese) to train and battle with each other. The app allows users to wander their neighborhood in search of Pokémon beasts who pop-up as if in real life (i.e. on your phone).
— Roger DiLuigi III (@RogersBase) July 10, 2016
How does it work?
After downloading the app and creating your own character, users see an anime-like version of Google Maps that hides street and area names, and replaces real-life landmarks with Pokémon-specific buildings. As users navigate the real world, their in-game character mirrors their movements and will randomly encounter Pokémon which, with luck, they’ll be able to capture and add to their team.
So what’s so fun?
Besides the appeal of collecting hundreds of varieties of rare Pokémon – which can be thought of as virtual pets which users must train and take care of – players also join one of three global teams and battle for territory. Beyond the digital appeal, users say they enjoy how the app encourages them to explore their towns and cities and interact with others. For example, two women in New Zealand rented a kayak to claim territory in the middle of Wellington’s bay.
— Kelsey Thomson (@Kelchup) July 10, 2016
What’s the point of collecting Pokémon?
As users acquire and strengthen more Pokémon, they use them to battle other players for control of Pokémon Gyms, which are scattered throughout the world. Not only do users enjoy building teams of strong or unique Pokémon, but each user gets to choose one of three teams – Team Instinct, Mystic or Valor – and claiming a Gym strengthens the global ranking of each team.
Does it cost money?
The game is free, but users can buy items in the app instead of through real-life experiences. For example, traveling to a PokéStop within the game may allow the user to collect rare items. Alternatively, lazy players who don’t want to search for a PokéStop can simply buy them.
Why is Nintendo now worth $7-billion more than last week?
Nintendo owns an undisclosed part of Niantic Inc, the San Francisco-based developer of the game. Investors are betting that the game’s chart-topping debut will mean millions of users will buy virtual items and businesses will pay money to advertise in the game. Pokémon Co., which is a separate company from Nintendo, also owns a stake in Niantic, as does Google Inc.
But is it dangerous?
Wandering through public spaces while glued to your smartphone is asking for trouble. A late-night hunt for Pokémons in Missouri led some players into a trap set up by armed robbers, local media reported. Meanwhile, US highway authorities have told gamers not to drive while playing with the warning “Eyes up, Poké Balls down, people,” on its official Twitter feed.
But how can I play in South Africa?
While Pokémon Go continues to blow away global tech records, it is technically only available in a handful of countries – not including South Africa. However, there is a simple workaround which can get you hunting Pokémon in no time.
There are a variety of ways to get and play Pokémon Go on your mobile device, but the following instructions will outline the easiest ways for both Android and iOS. Please note that the process will require users to have an extra email address, which is not tied to Google or Apple (yet).
Play Pokémon Go on iOS
The first of the two mobile operating systems we will cover will be Apple’s iOS 9, which is the current stable release, and also the easier one of the two to obtain and play Pokémon Go.
- The first thing you have to do is get that extra email address. If you are having a hard time finding one, you can go on over to Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Outlook, and create a new one with no strings attached (I recommend Google, as Pokemon integrates with Google quite nicely).
- Once you have your new email address, simply open the App Store on your iOS device. Once the main page has loaded, scroll down all the way to the bottom. Tap on your Apple ID and tap ‘Sign Out’.
- After you have signed out, simply go on over to any free app, and attempt to download it. It should now ask you to either ‘Use an Existing Apple ID’, or to ‘Create New Apple ID’. Here, you need to create a brand new Apple ID in one of the countries where the game is currently available. In my case, I chose the United States.
- During the creation process, be sure to select “none” on the Billing screen. Then scroll down and add a public address situated in the country you chose earlier. The best solution here is to use an address for a hotel which is publicly available and can be found using Google.
- After you have done this, the App Store should switch over to the country that you chose during the creation process. Simply search for Pokemon Go, and you are set.
- Remember to sign out with this new account and sign in again with your real Apple ID after you have downloaded Pokemon Go, in order to ensure that your Apple App store switches back to South Africa.
Play Pokémon Go on Android
On Android, the process can be a little bit trickier, or easier, depending on your level of expertise with the mobile operating system. This method has been tested on Android 4.4 Kitkat, which is the oldest version of Android that supports the game.
- First, you will have to give your Android device the ability to install and run third-party, and unsigned applications from websites outside of the Google Play Store. You will have to be cautious when enabling this, as you will now be able to install unsafe and unreliable apps which can put your phone and information at risk. Proceed with caution.
- To do this, head on over to the Security page in your device’s settings app, scroll down and turn on Unknown Sources.
- Now, you will have to download the Pokemon Go APK from a reputable website. A quick Google Search will give you the link to the Pokemon Go 0.29.0 APK (I have used APKpure in the past). This is the file that will install the app onto your device once it is downloaded. As with any third-party downloads, only click on the download button, do not click on anything else, as this may pose a risk to your device.
- Click on “OK” and allow the download to finish up. Once that is done, select the file from your Notifications Menu and allow it to install on your device.
- When this is done, you can safely turn the “Unknown Sources” setting back off, launch the game using your Google mail address, and strive to be the best there ever was… by catching them all!