Wondering, wandering, and making sense of the world.


Why did Nintendo release Pokemon Go outside of Japan first?

Of course very few people know the real answer, and I doubt those people who will speak up, but my colleague came across a fascinating blog post in Japanese by someone in the game industry linking Nintendo’s decision to Japan’s characteristics (not culture).

What are the characteristics?

1. New things are criticized heavily and many scream for regulations.

2. When something causes a problem, people bash it by focusing on the negative while ignoring the positive aspects.

3. When few without common sense use something idiotically, the service provider is blamed for some reason.

4. However, when something has already become popular, develops a precedence, people are blindly kind to it.

The author argues that, as the game utilizes AR and could cause some idiots to enter forbidden areas or walk without paying any attention to the surrounding and cause accidents, this could negatively affect the Pokemon brand or even get the game banned.

Releasing it outside of Japan first is a strategy to maximize popularity while minimizing possible the damages caused by idiotic users.

While this may or may not be true, it’s an incredibly astute observation on the Japanese national psyche, and I couldn’t agree with it more.

Drones have become heavily regulated in Japan because few idiots crashed them in parades or landed it on the Prime Minister’s Official Residence marked with a radioactive sign (it was not). The media had a frenzy with drones and it’s pretty much impossible to fly one in most places now.

Airbnb and peer-to-peer hospitality is at the cusp of being regulated to oblivion as abuses and clashes with the local inhabitants is being constantly reported on TV. This is a shame since there is a massive shortage of hotels in some parts of this country right now.

Uber never gained a foothold in Japan, but if all the negative press inducing events happened in Japan, the company would be disassembled by the national equivalent of peer pressure. This is the country where a very popular ramen restaurant would shut its doors because all the people waiting outside would disturb the neighbors.

Even LINE, the incredibly popular messaging app (think WhatsApp of Japan) was being bashed in the media in mysterious ways when it was being used for unsavory purposes such as prostitution or cheating. As a result, LINE has significantly more parental control features than any other messaging app. Snapchat doesn’t stand a chance in Japan. Even if Twitter started in Japan, as soon as terrorists started using it, there would be a massive backlash.

This is why I’m worried that Japan won’t be the first country to implement automated driving or many of the game changing technologies in the next decades. I don’t think Japan was always like this, but now it’s a country that loves creating new things and loves bashing them to the ground. What a schizophrenic country.


One Response to “Why did Nintendo release Pokemon Go outside of Japan first?”

  1. July 15th, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    G.Toye says:

    It was not Nintendo that developed and released Pokemon Go. It was Niantic. Nintendo’s participation in Pokemon Go was one of licencing the Pokemon intellectual property and branding.

    Niantic is an American company based in San Francisco, California, acquired by Google. Thus, the initial release of Pokemon Go to the U.S. market was done as due course for business expediency. From a software business viewpoint, this is Niantic making a release to its “home” region — without additional time delays and effort for language customizations as required for a Japan release.

    Note the business pragmatics of their global rollout schedule: the initial release markets are: U.S., Australia and New Zealand — all English speaking countries.

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