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Pokémon Go catches its first national ban, in Iran

Get caught playing Pokémon Go in Iran and you could find yourself locked up, or possibly worse.

The High Council for Virtual Spaces, which regulates internet use within the nation’s borders, has just banned the augmented reality game over “security concerns,” according to the BBC.

That makes it the first country in the world to say “no” to Pokémon Go.

It’s not clear what the High Council finds so troubling about the game, which involves smartphone-wielding players visiting real-world locations to catch digital monsters. Going by recent publicity surrounding the hit game, the council’s concerns could easily encompass everything from crime-related fears such as robbery and trespassing, all the way to worries about large gatherings of people, something that tends to put strict regimes like Iran’s on edge.

The BBC said the Iranian authorities had apparently been considering slapping a ban on the game since last month, but wanted first to discuss the matter with its creator, San Francisco-based Niantic, before coming to a final decision about whether to let its citizens join in the fun.

Pokémon Go hasn’t been officially released in Iran, though many mobile gamers have nevertheless managed to download it via third-party sources. And while players in the country may still be keen to catch its virtual monsters on their travels about town, the official ban means gamers will need to keep a lookout for law enforcement engaging in a bit of catching of its own.

The Iranian government already places strict controls on the population’s use of the internet. A slew of popular sites, Facebook and Twitter among them, have long been blocked for most users, though some of its more tech-savvy citizens manage to find ways around the bans.

News of the Iranian ban on Pokémon Go comes just as Niantic launched the popular game in 15 new markets in Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore, which should please this guy. Pokémon Go arrived exactly a month ago and quickly became a massive hit. It’s now available for download in around 90 countries, with more on the way.

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