The popular AR mobile game, "Pokemon Go," which has been released in 15 Asian and Oceania countries, is yet to be out in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and China.
There is a sense of excitement and confusion among players in South Asia and China over the possibility of the game being out in these countries. This is because the game was released to South East Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan.
Indian cleric issues fatwa
Pokemon Go fans in India have one more reason to worry about the delayed release, after a cleric of Dargah-e-Ala Hazrat issued a fatwa against the game on Aug. 8.
"There is a possibility that players might enter religious shrines while prayers are going on. It might create law and order problems," Mufti Salim Noori, the cleric from an influential seminary belonging to the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam, said to the Times of India.
"...There are chances of a distracted player being hit by a speeding vehicle. It is unsafe and playing it is forbidden in Islam. Moreover, an addicted player's family members might also suffer," he added.
Noori also revealed that they received enquires from residents of Mauritius and Durban, who wanted to know if the game was un-Islamic.
This is not the first instance of a fatwa being issued against the game. The first one was issued by a Saudi cleric who extended his fatwa to the mobile game. He had earlier issued a fatwa on the Pokemon card game, citing use of "forbidden images" and gambling (which are against Islamic tenets).
A fatwa was also issued in Malaysia's Federal Territories against the game as it "endangers" human lives leading to accidents. This fatwa has been approved by the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia (Jakim).
But Iran is the only country that has actually banned the game, even before its release, citing security concerns.
Early August release imminent?
It has to be seen if this will have an effect on the game's release. Earlier rumours had suggested that India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives would receive the game in early August.
South Asia has not been mentioned by Niantic in any of its posts. The region boasts of a large number of mobile phone users and Pokemon fans, so a release in these areas will be gladly welcomed.
Geo-block still in place?
However, most countries in this region still have geo-block in place. A Reddit user from Nepal said there is a geo-block in Kathmandu. The in-game maps are reportedly showing up empty.
India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives are reported to still have geo-block in place. But a Reddit thread noted that some cities in Pakistan (Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad, Multan and Islamabad) do not feature geo-block. So there seems to be a partial block in Pakistan.
Possible "Pokemon Go" release in China
"Pokemon Go" release in China could face hurdles as several countries have raised concerns that the game could compromise the country's security.
Some Chinese people took to the microblogging site, Weibo, to voice their opinion against playing "Pokemon Go." Some of them believed that the United States and Japan can explore the country's secret bases using the game.
China is at loggerheads with the U.S. over illegally building islands in the South China Sea. It has crossed swords with Japan over the control of the disputed Senkaku Islands. The game is already available in Hong Kong.
Even as players were waiting for the game to be officially released in these countries, the delay has caused many to try out the game using the illegal APK files and some accessed the game via proxy VPN (where locations are masked).