Smartphone gaming sensation, Pokemon GO, has been officially banned in Iran by the High Council of Virtual Spaces. The augmented reality game, which has been available for up to one month depending on the country, has been banned because of "security concerns" although the precise details of this are unknown. Iran is known to want access and control over Internet users' data and in July, the government was known to be working with Pokemon GO's developers, Nintendo and in particular, Niantic, over potential restrictions to the title. It's possible that Iran's government does not want the "Pokemon effect" taking place, that is, groups of people collating at PokeStops at all hours of the day and night. It's also possible that Iran doesn't want to place unsuspecting citizens under the risk of being robbed by thieves preying on those preoccupied with "catching them all," or perhaps it did not want people collating in sensitive areas vying for control of a Pokemon Gym.
Pokemon GO is an augmented reality game based around people travelling to find Pokemon, then capturing them by throwing Pokeballs at them. Captured monsters may be trained or used to train existing Pokemon, which can then be used to fight other players for control of real world locations. Nintendo have included real-world locations, such as Pokemon Gyms and PokeStops, for Pokemon training and topping up the in-game tools respectively. Pokemon GO developers Niantic and Nintendo have slowly been releasing the game across the world and this weekend, fifteen Asian countries saw the game officially released. Niantic has had to stagger the release of the game to ease the load on its servers: in the month since release, the game has quickly become the fourth most popular smartphone application: only Facebook, Google Search and the Contacts application are more popular. On average, the game is running for forty three minutes on players' smartphones and more people enjoy Pokemon GO than use Twitter and Snapchat on a daily basis.
Although Iran is the first country to officially ban the game, other countries are investigating the game. Singapore is looking at the application to see how it could change day to day life. Singapore's minister for communications and information has recently stated that he is monitoring the situation and should things become concerning, the country will decide if "... the game is really needed here, how... we can do it in such a way that it becomes a win-win situation." It remains to be seen if the game is banned in other locations.