Pokémon GO in Colombo.

The highly anticipated Pokémon GO hit the app stores a few days ago and has since become a literal overnight success. And while it’s not available world-wide just yet, many Sri Lankans have figured out ways to get it on their devices. Here’s the low down on Pokémon GO in SL right now.

How It Works

At this point I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t heard of Pokémon GO in some way or form, with the interwebs overrun with hilarious GO related memes and stories.

As of now, the app is only (officially) available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand but Android users in Sri Lanka have figured out how to get there hands on the app (through an APK). If you’re using an iPhone, sign in to an Apple ID registered in the US on the App Store, install the game and you’re good to go. In the US alone, Pokémon GO is at an estimated 7.5M downloads, with it’s daily active users expected to surpass Twitter in the coming week.

What sets Pokémon GO from all the other App based games is that it requires you to physically move to locations to catch different pokémon (much like Niantic’s other popular AR game Ingress).

This uses both your phones GPS tracker and camera to create an augmented reality experience that overlays pokemon on to real world locations using your camera in real time, which makes for an awesome feel of immersion.

Pokémon GO has gotten me to visit more religious locations in the last three days than my parents managed throughout my life. Why? Well mostly because nearly all places of worship and statues have been tagged as PokéStops, which are interactable locations that give periodic rewards (poké balls, potions, etc.). So the next time you see someone near Kovil staring at their phone, you’ll know why.

If you’ve played Pokémon in the past you’ll find the game mechanics in GO to be quite different. Unlike the Nintendo console games you don’t have to battle pokémon to catch them, instead it requires you to throw poké balls with the correct precision and timing. It’s far more simplified, but it becomes more challenging as the game progresses.

After you reach level 5 you get to choose between three teams; Instinct, Mystic and Valor, which is where things get more interesting, with the battling element coming into play. Once you’ve selected a team you can start competing for gyms around Colombo and the suburbs.

Choose wisely though, and get some friends to join your team as well, because contesting for gyms can become quite competitive so you’ll likely find yourself in turf wars with rival teams’ members.

The Colombo Scene

Being a follower of the franchise from Gen 1, I basically installed GO as soon as I could and this seems to be the case with so many other 90s kids in Colombo. It’s reignited the passion for Pokémon that so many of our generation lost along the way, and that’s great to see.

It’s tough to say exactly how many players we’ve got playing it in Sri Lanka, but judging by the excitement on Facebook and in-game activity it seems to be quite a lot. We’ve already got Facebook groups popping up for local players to get in touch with each other, and between them there are at least 300 players.

There’s even been some community events where groups basically meet up to go around town catching pokémon and competing for gyms.

The downside, however, is that Pokémon GO is an absolute battery killer with it’s constant use of GPS, camera and mobile data, with the latter also slowly but surely draining your credit balance. To mitigate this we’d suggest keeping a power bank handy, ’cause you’re not gonna catch ’em all without battery power. Also since this isn’t actually official release for our region, there are some bugs and server issues in general, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Conclusion

If you’ve enjoyed Pokémon in the past in any form whether it be the games, anime or card game, you should definitely download Pokémon GO and start playing. If you’re new to the franchise, that’s perfectly fine as well since the game doesn’t require much prior knowledge, with the collection, competitive and community aspects appealing to mostly anyone.

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