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Pokemon, Sony Seek Games Expansion in Greater China in 2018

Augmented reality game, “Pokemon Go” may be able to launch in China, some 18 months after the craze swept the rest of the world. This year will also see Sony’s games unit ForwardWorks distributing smart phone games in the parts of Greater China — Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau – beyond the reach of mainland Chinese regulators.

Chinese games publisher, NetEase was recently part of a $200 million investment round conducted by “Pokemon Go”’s U.S.-based operator, Niantic. NetEase is now poised to be the local partner that any imported game is required to have before release in China.

“We absolutely intend to bring our existing games into China,” Niantic Labs CEO John Hanke said in an interview with the Financial Times. “Beyond that, there are opportunities to build games in China, both for China and for the world.

Hanke provided no timetable for release of the game, nor any details of how the game will surmount other regulatory hurdles in China. Some of its edgier content may upset censors who frown on gore and superstition. China may also invoke matters of national security in locations that are both popular and have national symbolism.

NetEase did not respond to inquiries from Variety about completion of the regulatory process, or the building of infrastructure to support the game.

Its pact with the U.S. firm appears to span all of Niantic’s current content, including “Ingress” and “Harry Potter” spinoff “Wizards Unite.” Those could ultimately prove bigger in China, where “Pokemon Go” has been widely played in unauthorized versions.

Sony is manufacturer of PlayStation consoles and creates and publishes games to play on the devices. But with the near ubiquity of smart phones and the only recent opening of the China market to games consoles, Sony is increasingly looking at other platforms.

ForwardWorks has tied up with Sony group company So-Net Entertainment Taiwan to begin distributing non-console games in the region. Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reports that “Between The Sky and the Sea” (aka “Sora to Umi no Aida”) is likely to be the first. The game has been a hit since release in Japan last fall, thanks to video, manga and comic book tie-ins. An animated TV series is set to launch in 2018.

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