The Bizarre Story of Why Nintendo’s Pokemon GO was Banned in this Country

Published 08/11/2021, 11:56 AM EDT


It’s the summer of 2016 and you are outside playing Pokemon GO, hoping to catch a wild Charizard; times were good.

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As Pokemon was rolling out in countries one by one, people couldn’t wait to play the new game. The players in countries that didn’t have the game had only two options. Either wait for the official launch or use VPNs. One such country was Iran, but things took a turn for the worse.

Iran’s strict rules

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While the game was still working on its release in other countries, the game’s developers received an unexpected email from the Iran Computer & Video Games Foundation (IRCG). The IRCG is an organization set up by the government. It is technically a nonprofit organization that releases multiple games in the Iranian region. Surprisingly, the organization also gets to decide if games will be launched in the country or will be banned.

The email said, “If the game wants to come to the Iranian market it has to pass through the filtering of the IRCG Foundation along with their cooperation, otherwise we have to filter and block this game in our market”.

The IRCG essentially had 2 demands. Firstly, the devs were required to set up servers within the country and store all data regarding the residents of the country in those servers only. Secondly, they wanted to check through all the locations where Pokemon could be found. The spokesperson of the foundation stated, “These should not be locations that users are prohibited to be in, like the military or national security locations”. 

Niantic replied to the foundation in an email that basically said that they did not plan on launching in Iran. The email also read, “Iran’s gaming market is a complicated market for developers and global companies”. Which was not a stretch. The country has restricted games such as Clash of Clans and Battlefield 3 already.

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Pokemon GO: The ban

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In rather strange news, Pokemon GO was banned throughout Iran. This decision did not come from the IRCG, but from another higher body known as The Council of Virtual Spaces banning the game for unspecified “security reasons”.

Although we never got to know the actual reason behind the ban, BBC news connected with a religious official to find out more. The official explained that there was a ban on the Pokemon series in parts due to “forbidden images”. A few of the Pokemon games also involved gambling, which was frowned upon in the country.

The ban did not really affect the game as Niantic did not plan to launch the game in Iran, anyway. Well known Iranian game developer, Mohammad Mahdi said, “From knowing that the main Pokemon story is not very knowing in Iran, it may not have the same speed in connecting with the Iranian people.”

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The game went onto take the world by storm, having 232 million users in its first year of launch.

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Tanay Grover

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