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Nintendo files Chinese trademarks for Pokémon Go in China, where the mobile AR game is currently banned

Abacus logo Abacus 14/8/2020 Karen Chiu karen.chiu@scmp.com
a hand holding a cellphone: A smartphone showing Pokémon Go is seen in front of a stall on July 25, 2016, in Hong Kong, where the game is not banned. Photo: Bloomberg A smartphone showing Pokémon Go is seen in front of a stall on July 25, 2016, in Hong Kong, where the game is not banned. Photo: Bloomberg

China has kept Pokemon Go outside its borders for years, but several new trademarks are reviving hopes that the blockbuster game might eventually arrive in the country.

It's been recently revealed that last month, Nintendo applied for two trademarks using the simplified Chinese name for Pokemon Go, according to a National Intellectual Property Administration database. And that's not all: The record shows that Nintendo has been filing for dozens of Pokemon-related trademarks for months now. They include names of Pokemon like Pikachu and Jigglypuff, as well as games like Pokemon Ga-Ole.

Pokemon Go has been banned in China since 2017 seemingly because of its gameplay. The augmented reality game has players catch virtual Pokemon by travelling to specific locations in the real world. The function was deemed "a big social risk" by regulators, who said it posed a threat to pedestrians and road safety.

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US company Niantic, which makes Pokemon Go in collaboration with Nintendo, said in 2018 that it wanted to bring the game to China. At the time, Niantic was reportedly partnering up with Chinese gaming giant NetEase, but the plans haven't materialised so far.

NetEase finally announced last year that it was working on the first Pokemon mobile game for China, but it had nothing to do with Pokemon Go. Instead, NetEase is collaborating with Japanese studio Game Freak on a Chinese version of Pokemon Quest. The role-playing game, launched globally in 2018, lets players train Pokemon and go on adventures.

Meanwhile, NetEase rival Tencent is also preparing to release its own Pokemon title. The company announced in June that it's creating Pokemon Unite, an original MOBA game made by Tencent's TiMi Studios for smartphones and the Nintendo Switch.

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We reached out to Niantic, NetEase and Nintendo partner Tencent with questions about the future of Pokemon Go in China, but they weren't immediately available for comment.

It's possible that Nintendo registered the new trademarks simply to protect its intellectual property and has no plans to release the game in China. Still, some fans find the Chinese name that Nintendo chose for Pokemon Go a bit strange.

The name filed was "Baokemeng Zou", which can also mean "Pokemon, go away".

In a comment with more than 300 likes, one Weibo user asked, "Why is this name Baokemeng Zou so funny?"

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