As of Friday, Pokemon Go has been released in three more locations – Italy, Spain and Portugal – while Hong Kong fans are waiting with bated breath for an announcement as to when it will be coming to the city.
The app is an augmented reality mobile game available on Android and iPhone systems. It uses the device’s camera and location detection functions to display Pokemon characters in the environment around you. However, experts say that technical difficulties relating to locations have to be overcome before it can be rolled out in Hong Kong.
“A location-based game takes an enormous amount of work. You need to manage every single location you place – ensuring not only that they stay up to date… but also [that they are] well positioned to correspond with user activity,” Ian Woo, a game designer at Fifth Wisdom said. He said that obsolete landmarks can end up leaving hard to remove “legacy” data like leaderboard scores.
Dense areas like Hong Kong are, in particular, a nightmare to manage, said Woo, because of how many locations are cluttered together.
He added that areas where the game has been released, such as the US, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, are all places of low density, and it is expected that Niantic, Pokemon Go’s developer, will spend at least a few weeks tidying up live maps in these places, in addition to preparing for high-density maps in Asian countries.
Leo Weese, a cyber security researcher, said there was also the problem of servers. Weese said that Niantic used an augmented reality game they previously developed called Ingress to build their location database, and although the locations are already in place, there was a delay in introducing Pokemon Go because they could not add servers fast enough.
“At the growth rate they are seeing it becomes really difficult to add new servers, because professional providers cannot easily free up or add capacity,” Weese said.
Weese said it was likely that developers are reviewing claims of problematic locations such as graveyards or private residences, and although those locations may have been added by Ingress players already, the problem was likely less apparent and more manageable because the game was less popular.
“So if you want to see what locations they will be using for Pokemon Go in Hong Kong, just fire up Ingress,” he added. “But some people already have Pokemon Go here and are playing it – they just tell me the servers keep collapsing.”
On Facebook page Pokemon: Go Hong Kong, local fans are eagerly anticipating the game’s release, but Woo says that it could be weeks before a local version is made available.