Gotta Catch Em’ All! Pokémon Go!
I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was, to catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause! Pokémon, gotta catch em’ all! 90s kids will remember those iconic lyrics. The Pokémon theme song for the anime on television. I cannot believe that the theme song actually stuck in my head.
A Look Back in Time
Pokemon was introduced in 1995 as a couple of Nintendo Game Boy games and a tv anime series featuring an Ash Ketchum as the amateur Pokémon trainer and adventurer and his beloved oh so cute yellow electrician rat called Pikachu. It spawned into a very popular and viral trading card game. If I sound like I find Pokémon lame; I do apologise. In fact, I was one of those very kids that was infected by the Pokémon craze plague. I was in that same generation that could not get enough of watching Ash Ketchum with his Pikachu and his two friends, Brock and Misty in their adventures as they embark on a journey to become Pokémon masters. Not to forget Gary, the spoiled brat who is always trying to one-up Ash in everything and the person that made every Gary in the world look like douches even when they are not. We were the generation that was also crazy enough to spend money just to play Pokémon games on the Game Boy pocket console. Not just that we were spending money to buy trading cards in hopes that we get some really cool holographic card with a small ‘rare’ type label in the bottom corner of the card. We kept the cards and played with them for the longest time. We spend money and time to sleeve each card to keep them mint and protected. We spent plenty of time and effort to perfect our miserable deck of 60 cards, not to mention money buying those ‘booster packs’ that most of the time contain worthless energy cards and useless Ratatas. It was plenty of fun though doing all those. Our lives was invaded with Pokémon. Our lives become about Pokémon at that time. That was about 10 years ago though. Fast forward to July 2016, the biggest mobile app of the decade has arrived; Pokémon Go is released.
Pokémon Go – Mobile Game at Its Next Level
So that was the history of Pokémon. The big thing for these two weeks has been the release of the very highly anticipated Pokémon game of the future, Pokémon Go. By now as well half of the world including you already know what it is and what it is about. For those who has not yet been acquainted to Pokémon Go though, it is a mobile game that is available for free on Android or iOS. Do not go rushing to download it just yet though. If you live inside South East Asia the app has not been released officially on Google Play and Apple App Store just yet. So we have not actually played too much of it yet too. It was on Google Play for a short while before it got taken down.
In principle, it is pretty much like the game we have played back in 1996 on the Nintendo Game Boy. You are an amateur Pokémon trainer whose aim is to catch all Pokémon in the world and train them to be the best, you can also battle and trade with your mates who play the same game as well. The difference mild difference between the game 10 years ago and today is that you now play it on your smartphone with a mix of a map like app and augmented reality. You cannot longer press buttons to move your character. In fact the character that you need to move is you as an individual playing with in a real-time map of your surroundings. So how do you move your character if there are no buttons to press? You literally have to walk around to travel in the world and move in the game. You have to walk to places to find Pokémon to catch and to battle. You will also encounter other players eventually if you play enough and can battle other trainers. When you do find a Pokémon on the street with the Pokémon Go app, it turns into an augmented reality app through the use of your camera. The Pokémon will be on display on your screen on top of the backdrop of whatever the app randomly chooses. Of course it is smarter than just random locations. This is a recipe for people to really get some exercise or walking done. Who says Pokémon is not healthy for you?
Developed by Niantic, the mobile game easily took the world by storm. It boosted Nintendo’s market value by US$7.5 billion on its first day of release alone. It topped the download charts all in United States, New Zealand and Australia as it became available in those countries. In short, it was huge. Every person in the world wanted it obviously but it has not been rolled out everywhere just yet. Of course such a success will garner plenty of attention from the public in both positive and negative ways. True enough, there has been plenty on the news lately regarding the game.
let’s start with the first thing on every readers mind in South East Asia currently, availability. Last week Niantic, Pokémon Go’s developer stated that the roll out of the game for Europe and Asia will start within a few days. Well, within the past week anyway. It did happen to Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong but not in Malaysia and the rest of Asia. So is it still coming? For the most part, we are still getting feedback that Niantic is planning on bringing the app to more parts of Asia; so ultimately we will get the game officially. The only issue is when, that is one question we are also not able to answer. Niantic’s broken promise to Asian and European fans do have a valid reason.
If you read correctly, the game topped the Google Play and Apple App Store download charts on its release date. For some reason Niantic did not foresee this sort of anticipation and response in the market and therefore their Pokemon Go servers just went from zero to full in just a few days. Funnily enough though the server was fine during New Zealand’s and Australia’s release. Only when Pokémon Go was released in the US that the server started crashing due to the overloading crowd in the Pokémon Go servers. Because of the overloading of the servers Niantic, actually a subsidiary of Alphabet is putting their global release plans on hold to rectify the issue. Does this mean that they are not releasing Pokémon Go in Asia. On the contrary, They released the app in Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong last week so the Asia release is still a Go (see what I did there?). In fact their servers are pretty unstable too and it is just about holding. Niantic at this time is basically doing what they can to expand their servers to hold on to remaining subscribers of Pokémon Go and also to support new players in the future. Of course they cannot just double their server capacity as the US capacity alone is enough to crash their servers. They have to possibly expand their servers as much as 10 times their current capacity if they are to support the global capacity. Why? Pokémon Go relies heavily on the cloud database and of course when one million person is logged into one server, you can imagine the load.
For Android users, especially ones that are outside Pokémon Go’s official release regions they can technically get Pokemon Go to work on their device. Not officially, but hey it works right? Well yes side-loading the application may seem like a good idea if you are not patient enough to play this madness of a game. But know that you are actually putting yourself through a huge security risk as with side-loading any other apps not officially in Google Play. One particular cyber security found within the side-loaded APK file of Pokémon Go is Droidjack, also known as SandroRAT. Found by Proofpoint, a security research firm the malware is a Root Access Tool type which allows hackers full access of a victims smart device which may lead to things like identity theft and leaks of your other personal information. Would not want that would we. Of course there are ways to avoid this but seriously it would be better to just be patient.
Security Issues for iOS
For iOS users, there is no side loaders that we know of that would work properly as Apple keeps a tight lid on their software and app developments. On a side note that is quite an advantage for the OS. It is of course not free of software engineering faults and bugs that show up in apps. Pokémon Go’s problem with iOS is a bug that is able to give developers full access into a user’s Google Account in their iPhone. When we say full access we do mean full access. The bug allows Niantic to not just read your Google account or email set up in your Apple device. It also allows Niantic to write emails and change settings of the account itself. That is a full user access. Of course you can fix it by turning off the full access of accounts in your settings and the game still sort of works. Also you can create an entirely create a new “Trainer Club” account rather than using your Google account to play the game.
Of course with that issue Niantic will be bombarded with plenty of questions from the media. Niantic did respond though. They are saying that they did not read or misuse any of the user’s Google emails or accounts. They also said that the “full access” authorisation bug is likely caused by an out-of-date API. With the statement Niantic and Google also disclosed that they have authorisation to only access basic information as needed on the Google accounts. That said, they are aware of the issue and the bug and are working hard on a fix to reduce permissions and authorisation required by the app itself. This only affects Google accounts on iOS devices though so Android users have nothing to worry about.
Intel Not Getting Pokémon Loving
Intel just pulled itself out of the smartphone processors market. Because of that too plenty of app developers starts ignoring the Intel platform almost entirely as Intel-powered device will slowly become obsolete as time goes. Sure enough also for Niantic, Pokemon Go that was released does not support the Intel Atom platform. With the eventuality of Intel-powered smartphones in the future it does make sense for Niantic to forgo their Intel support with the new app. It is no wonder then that the ASUS ZenFone 2 is not able to play the mobile game. Of course they are not the only ones who are not able to play the game, Windows Phone users also have no access to the game and all of them are not happy. This leads to them going to change.org to create a petition for Niantic to make Pokemon Go available for Intel-powered devices.
Sure enough their plea has gone through and now Intel-powered smartphones can play Pokemon Go. The petition garnered 42,606 supporters by the end of the campaign. Windows smartphone users though have not gotten any sort of luck as of yet.
Watch Your Wallets
Funnily enough you can get robbed by playing Pokémon Go. Sure it is a great game. Sure, it is also a great app to get you up and moving and walking around your neighbourhood at the very least. But it is also a great app for robbers. How? Pretty smart way to do it actually. In the game mechanics there will be things like the gym, PokéCenters and PokéStops in real locations. Of course they are not real Pokémon gyms or stops or centers, all are virtual on your virtual real-time map based real-world locations.
Robbers figured out the game mechanics and use the Lure Module of PokéStops to lure players into a specific stop. How that works is that you use the app to place a beacon so that you can virtually lure more Pokémons to spawn at one location for 30 minutes. That particular spot will be visible to other players in the same vicinity as well and will be highlighted in your map as you play along. When you get there though is when the robbers hold you at knife or gunpoint to take all your belongings. Sadness ensues. There are plenty more reports about Pokémon Go related crimes actually, just that this one is particularly interesting and clever.
There are also several cases of traffic related incidents that have been reported these days due to the mobile game. There is also a particularly eerie report where a player accidentally stumbles upon a dead body while jumping a fence to catch a Pokémon. Of course Niantic issued plenty of warning with the game especially when you are playing the game. The most important warning for us is that we should be extra careful of our surroundings playing the game. Also be extra cautious if you choose to walk around some new neighbourhood when you play the game and remember to check for clear roads when you need to cross it to catch a Pokémon. Yes, yes that particular one is rare and only around for limited time before it runs away. But think about it, your life could be at stake.
Back At It – When Will It Be Available?
In case you missed it earlier in the article. We do not know yet. There are no official wordings from Niantic so far about its release for the rest of the world that has not gotten it. There are also rumours flying around that it will be available globally by the end of the month. We cannot confirm that statement at this point but also cannot deny that. Of course you would have to take into account that it takes quite a bit of time to upgrade and to expand servers to satisfactory levels and Niantic did say that they are only releasing the game if they find that their servers are expanded to satisfactory levels. To arrive to that point, it will take Niantic some time; how long? We simply cannot tell. But the end game is that it is still planned for a worldwide release and we are plenty hoping that it will be soon.