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Pokemon Go Invades Toronto

By Mohsin Mohammad

2016 sees Pokemon mark 20 years of life. The collection-based franchise has spawned a television show, theatrical movies, a trading card game, uncountable toys and dozens of video and board games. I’ve had the opportunity to witness children grow up who have never known a time where a yellow mouse with red cheeks and a zig zagging tail wasn’t immediately recognizable. In all that time there have always been fans of the franchise that wanted to inhabit this amazing world of magical creatures. Go on their own adventure, raise their own party of Pokemon and watch them grow. Live the game.

Well now we can.

Announced in September of 2015 by series creator Tsunekazu Ishihara as a mobile platform game, Pokemon Go will now let people have their own, in real life, Pokemon adventure. Launched on July 6, the premise of the game is simple: upon purchase you get a starter Pokemon and then you get to explore your world. Pokemon are available in certain areas around town, and you have to go there, use your phone camera to find them and then you get a chance to catch them. The game features a micro transaction feature and there is an optional paired watch that retails in the realm of 30 to 40 dollars that will give you alerts when a Pokemon is nearby.

Until this past weekend, Pokemon Go hadn’t seen a limited release and was only available in Japan, New Zealand and Australia but that didn’t stop enterprising Torontonians from getting a head start. A simple Google Search of “Pokemon Go” showcased this well. The very first result wasn’t a description of the game or a link to its official web page. It was a link to how one could bypass the region locking and get the game prior to release.

So many people did this that the day one servers in Australia experienced significant slowdowns since they weren’t able to handle the massive load. Moreover, Australian police last week sent out an open message asking citizens to be more mindful of where they were going because of some incidents involving gamers being too engrossed with their new toy. Most of us likely have a Facebook friend or two that has been posting pictures nonstop, many of them marveling at the places they are discovering around the city.


How does this all work? Geo Tracking. Game developer Niantic has set up particular coordinates across towns and cities at particular sites of interest. In Toronto, TTC stations like Islington and the murals along Dundas West are tagged for Pokemon activity. You can go there and certain Pokemon will be available for you to battle and catch. Moreover, trainers will be able to battle one another’s Pokemon and even set up Pokemon Gyms though at this early stage of release it isn’t quite clear how well those aspects will work. Of particular note is that geography will play a part in what Pokemon are available where. Grassy parks will contain your run of the mill normal types like Tauros and Rattata while venturing into some wooded areas will reveal bug types like Scyther and Caterpie.

Thus far only the first 150 Pokemon will be available to catch and train and from early reports of the game even all of those aren’t available out of the gate but will gradually be released as the year goes on. Legendary Pokemon will be part of major release events requiring dozens to trainers to come to a single area to fight the legendary.

The game is now available across Canada on both iOS and Android.