The plan to launch Pokémon Go in China has hit a significant obstacle, with the country's government withholding a license while it investigates the game on the grounds of national security and public safety.
Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO of The Pokémon Company, talked about a strategy to launch in China and South Korea in September last year, despite issues around accessing Google Maps. However, according to Reuters, the Chinese government has concerns about the game beyond its complicated relationship with Google.
The report says that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television was prompted to act due to "a high level of responsibility to national security and the safety of people's lives and property." The China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association, which is governed by the State Administration, published a statement describing perceived risks connected to Pokémon Go, including a "threat to geographical information security and the threat to transport and the personal safety of consumers."
Those risks will now be evaluated by the State Administration, in concert with other relevant government departments. The results of that investigation will influence the commercial future of Pokémon Go and other location-based games, a wave of which have been developed by Chinese companies in the wake of its global success.
Pokémon Go was perhaps the defining release of 2016, breaking records in the mobile market and invading public life in a way that few games have ever managed. The peak of its popularity has now passed, but China remains a huge opportunity in terms of the game's future commercial potential.
For The Pokémon Company and Niantic, though, this will be a reminder of the weeks and months following its initial launch, when every story about success was matched with another about the behaviour of its players, invasions of privacy, and court cases.