Pokemon is Go, except when one telco has exclusive rights

03 Aug 2016

The Pokemon Go phenomenon is taking the world by storm and is making many adults look very, very silly.

No, I am not talking about adults spending hours and hours every day hunting down Pokemon. After all, getting up off the desk or couch and walking like mad to catch’em all and hatch those Pokemon eggs is great for your health, never mind the reason. Getting mugged, shot or having to be rescued by lifeguards after catching Pokemon by the seaside during a rising tide is, however, another matter.

Rather, I am talking about those adults in Thailand who are running the country and businesses who have absolutely no clue about the game and are saying the funniest things.

Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism, announced that rare types of Pokemon would be placed at tourist destinations that the ministry wanted to promote.

He also said that Pokestops (in game places that give out items when within 40 meters) would be placed at famous tourist destinations to attract Gen-Y trainers/travellers.

Just to be clear, a permanent secretary is the highest ranking career civil servant in any ministry.

First off it is clear that he has no idea how the game was developed. Pokestops (and Pokemon gyms) are simply re-used locations in Niantic’s other augmented reality game, Ingress. Niantic simply re-used a subset of Ingress portals for Pokemon Go complete with the photos and descriptions from the other game.

And yes, for crying out loud, it is Niantic, formerly a wholly owned subsidiary of Google, and not Nintendo who created the game.

One does not simply place Pokestops. Of course, touristy places will have an abundance of Portals/Pokestops anyway from the hard work of Ingress Agents who are not credited in Pokemon Go for their submissions.

Secondly, it is clear that they think they can simply tell Niantic where to place their rare Pokemon.

To use the colloquialism, yeah, right, Thailand will be the first country in the world to make such a deal with Niantic.

But at least he did not promise something silly like unique Thai Pokemon.

No, that honour goes to True CEO Supachai Chearavanont, who spoke of how True, as the master licence holder for Pokemon in Thailand, would offer its subscribers special in-game items when they launch the game.

Supachai said words to the effect that, “who knows, perhaps we will even have a uniquely Thai Pokemon”.

Perhaps. Or perhaps not. The idea of tearing up 20 years of lore and canon just to fit one corporation’s sponsorship whims seems Farfetch’d, to say the least (pun intended - Farfetch’d is one of the original 150 Pokemon launched in 1996, not that anyone handing out Pokemon at True’s Pokemon press conference knew, I had to tell them, “the duck one”, to get it.).

Speaking a while ago, Supachai also promised a launch in Singapore and Thailand after the launch in Japan.

Well, that did not happen as many countries, most notably Hong Kong, has since seen Pokemon Go mania hit their shores since his sort-of-announcement.

True’s head of content Peerathon Kasemsri has since reiterated that True holds the Master Licence for Pokemon in Thailand and specifically how its rights includes the rights to Pokemon Go.

One wonders if this bickering over exclusive rights to Pokemon is what is causing the delay. True is obviously putting their foot down and standing their ground. One wonders if Niantic is even paying attention given how small the Thailand market is in the bigger scheme of things.

Besides, Niantic are obviously struggling just to keep their servers from crashing miserably due to the load.

Looking on the bright side, at least Thailand doesn’t have a Fatwa against Pokemon, like in Saudi Arabia. Yet.

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