Pokemon Go-es to Cuba. Well, sort of

Pokemon Go, the smash-hit augmented reality game from Niantic, has broken records and already played in countries all over the world. Now it can add Cuba to the list.

Downloading the app isn’t permitted in Cuba because the game is only available in certain countries and the Google Play and Apple App stores don’t work the country. Despite this, users are accessing the game using a VPN app like Tunnel Bear on their phones to fool the store into believing they’re in the US. Though this breaks the terms of service of both the app and the app store, it enables the players to download the app, without entering a credit card. After registering with a google account, which many young Cubans have, they’re able to play.

As an augmented reality game, Pokemon Go shows Pokemon at locations in the real work, that the player can see and capture through their phone. This requires constant access to the game’s servers, which is an issue for a country like Cuba, which lacks fast and reliable cell data. This means that in Cuba the only way to play the game is on a wifi network, which restricts the game to wifi parks, hotels, some businesses and university computer labs.


Playing the game at CUJAE.

It’s a major issue for Pokemon Go, which requires users to physically travel from location to location to encounter and capture pokemon. This is arguably the fundamental point of the game and the main reason it has gained so much popularity and praise, but it’s an insurmountable problem for Cuban players.

“The problem is that you need to move in order to find Pokemon,” said Daniel Glez, a third-year Informatics student at CUJAE. “And you can’t go too far from wifi…so you’ll catch one or two, but that’s it.”

After discovering Pokemon, users can then do battle with one another. The game also designates certain public spaces as gyms, where players can battle their Pokemon, which would be impossible to access unless they happen to be near wifi. This element of the game certainly seems impossible because there may be only one or two spots in all of Havana that have a gym near a wifi signal.

Regardless, Cubans are making it work, and enjoying themselves. The Facebook feeds of 20-somethings in the US has been awash in Pokemon Go posts for weeks now, and the same is just beginning to happen in Cuba, though for a much fewer number of users. The fad will likely be over quickly, with the games functionality reduced so greatly by the limitations in Cuba.

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