What is Pokémon Go, why are people going crazy over it and how can you play it in SA?

Depending on whom you ask, Pokémon Go is 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).

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.

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.

If you’re on Android (and therefore awesome)
First, you need to ensure your phone allows you to install apps from “unknown sources” – this is turned off by default on most smartphones. Head to your security settings to ensure this is enabled.

After doing this you’re going to want to go HERE and then download the 58mb APK file. (Be warned though, sometimes downloading APKs can introduce malware onto your phone. The above link has been verified, but as a general rule be sure to have an anti-virus app on your phone and ready to scan for any unwelcome software.)

Once downloaded, open the APK file in your phone’s file directory and it should prompt you to install the game.

Once installed, you’ll be asked to log-in using your Gmail account. As there have been privacy concerns linked to these early phases of Pokémon Go, we recommend signing up for a random Gmail account that you only use for the game. 

If you’re on an iPhone (shem)
If you have an iPhone or another iOS device, then getting Pokémon Go is a bit simpler. All you really need to do is access the App Store from an Apple account registered in a region where Pokémon Go is already available – at the moment these are the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Germany. (The US is probably the best region to go for.)

If your Apple account is already registered to South Africa, you’ll have to set up a new one. Open up Settings on your iPhone, tap on ‘Apple ID’ and select to sign out.

Open up the App Store, choose a random free app to download and select ‘Create new Apple ID’ when asked.

Go through the process of creating an Apple ID and select ‘None’ in the Billing menu and add a US – or New Zealand or Australian – address. Google can come in handy here if you need to search for an address. (But the best is using Apple’s own business address.)

Now you can download and install Pokémon Go onto your iPhone or iPad. When (if) Pokémon Go does officially come to South Africa, you can sign in with your previous Apple ID, but will have to reinstall the game.

Fortunately your Pokémon Go data is saved to the cloud with your Gmail account, so you’ll be able to play where you left off and won’t lose any of your hard won beasts.

Oh, and since Pokémon Go imports various landmarks from a previous Niantic Inc game, you will be able to find PokéStops and Gyms even though the game hasn’t been launched here yet. (Just beware – some locations are a bit on the dodgy side.)

Once you’ve logged into the game, simply follow the instructions, kit out your in-game character, and go catch some Pokémon!

 

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