Pokemon Go's 2018 plans include a move into one of their last untapped markets.
In an interview with FT.com, Niantic CEO John Hanke announced that Pokemon Go would be coming to China. Niantic is partnering with the Chinese gaming company NetEase to bring the popular mobile game to China nearly 18 months after the game was released to the rest of the world.
China banned Pokemon Go due to its use of Google Maps, which the country perceives as a security risk since Google Maps also includes satellite imagery of military and sensitive areas. Other countries have placed restrictions on Pokemon Go on where and when Pokemon can spawn, but China formally declined to allow Pokemon Go into the country in January 2017. Since then, no Pokemon spawn in the country, nor do any PokeStops or gyms appear at local places of interest.
Oddly enough, there was one incident last year in which a Pokemon Go player traveling in China reported briefly seeing some Pokemon. Back in August, a player discovered a pocket of activity in Taiyuan, China for a handful of hours. Players speculated this might be a test run for a wider release, but Pokemon Go never commented formally on the test nor did it announce any new Chinese plans until today.
NetEase is a Chinese internet and gaming company that maintains online services for games like Hearthstone and World of Warcraft in China. NetEase was one of several companies that invested in Niantic in 2017 and will help Pokemon Go launch in the company later this year. Pokemon Go also abandoned Google Maps in exchange for Open Source Maps in 2017, which likely also helped to ease concerns over the game.
During the interview, Hanke admitted that 2017 had not been as profitable as 2016, even though Pokemon Go still operated at a profit. Hanke expects 2018 to be a much stronger year for the company, in part due to the upcoming release of an AR game based on the world of Harry Potter.