Many may have stopped playing Pokémon Go, last year’s smash hit mobile game, but fans in Korea are just getting a taste of the action after it launched in their country today.
That’s right, this summer’s sensation is finally (officially) on Korean soil some six months after much of the rest of the world got into the title. The launch in Korea has been a complicated affair because Google Maps is restricted in the country on safety grounds, which is a major problem for Pokémon Go since it relies on the service’s data.
“We have waited very long and worked very hard to launch Pokémon Go in South Korea,” Pokémon Korea CEO Jae Boem told Reuters.
Alphabet has tried many times without success to get its maps service okayed in Korea, so Niantic was forced to build an alternative. The company didn’t go into details of its workaround other than to say that they “used various publicly accessible data sources.”
This all may seem like a lot of effort, but it certainly has the potential to be more than worth it since Korea is one of the world’s most lucrative gaming markets. Analyst firm Newzoo ranks its fifth with more than 25 million gamers, whose “annual average spend per paying gamer is among the highest in the world.” Mobile is the dominant medium, and mobile games alone are forecast to generate $2 billion in revenue in 2017, according to Newzoo.
This is day one of the official launch, but diehard Pokémon fans have been exploiting loopholes to play the game in a remote location where Google’s mapping service is permitted. Seaside town Sokcho, located on Korea’s east coast near the border with North Korea, became a mecca for the game last summer. The Associated Press reported that dedicated tour and travel packages had been created for desperate gamers keen to get their Pokémon kick, while local businesses and restaurants embraced Pokémon and its characters to appeal to temporary tourists.