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Much of Asia still waiting for 'Pokemon Go'

SINGAPORE -- "Pokemon Go" appears to have conquered the world. But the hugely popular augmented-reality game has yet to arrive in two big Asian markets: Southeast Asia and India.

Many Pokemon fans and video game buffs in the region are waiting eagerly to immerse themselves in the mobile game.

There are huge ranks of die-hard Pokemon fans in countries like India, Singapore and Indonesia, where the Pokemon TV anime series has been aired and a broad array of products featuring characters of the media franchise are sold, from snacks to notebooks to chewing gum.

Cheng Yu Boon, a 20-year-old college student in Singapore, said she is hoping that the game will become available in Singapore by the end of August. She downloaded the app in Australia, but has been unable to find any Pokemon in Singapore.

Customers at the Pokemon Cafe in Singapore are eagerly anticipating the debut of the popular game in the city-state.

Ooi Xi Ning, a 10-year-old elementary school student who loves Pikachu, said she will download the game if she gets her mother's nod.

The first official Pokemon Cafe in Southeast Asia, which has been operating in Bugis, a hip-and-happening area in central Singapore, has been thronged with Pokemon lovers every day since it opened in late May. It has attracted some 50,000 in total.

Local media in the region have been abuzz with news and comments about "Pokemon Go" even though the game has yet to be released.

One article in Singapore claimed that some Pokemon characters have been found in the country. In India, a commentator has warned that "Pokemon Go" is an especially dangerous game in India, where the population is large and transportation networks are underdeveloped.

"There is strong potential demand for 'Pokemon Go' in Southeast Asia and India, which have a large young population and growing ranks of middle-class consumers," said Shinobu Kikuchi, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute.

People aged 39 or younger account for more than 70% of the overall population in India and the Philippines, and slightly less than 70% in Indonesia and Malaysia, according to U.N. statistics. The young make up 65% of Vietnam's population. These ratios are well above the 50% levels in China and the U.S., and the 40% range in Japan.

No investment spur in Japan

Huge as it is, however, the "Pokemon Go" boom has failed to generate much excitement about Japanese stocks in the region's investor community. Many stock market analysts are skeptical about whether Poke-mania will translate into a massive flow of new money from Southeast Asia into the Japanese stock market.

"Pokemon Go" is certain to be a hit in Southeast Asia as well, said Alexander Adrian O. TIU, equity analyst at AB Capital Securities, a Philippine brokerage. But, he added, "Our local customers do not invest in Nintendo. We have no cross-trading platform, and I do not know anyone who invests in Nintendo in the Philippines."

There are many other attractive investments in Asia, including rising Philippine stocks, and not many brokerages in the region have an established system for investment in Japanese stocks.

Wong Kok Hoi, chief investment officer at Singaporean hedge fund APS Asset Management, said, "The game is simple. So, other companies can make similar games easily."

Another factor that is likely to keep the reward for Nintendo limited is that the game has been developed jointly by a Nintendo affiliate company and a U.S. game startup.

Wong said he was not considering any increase in investment in Nintendo or other Japanese companies with the funds he manages.

After soaring to new highs following the sensational debut of the game, Nintendo stock has fallen back sharply, partly due to losses it reported for the April-June quarter.

Despite its enormous appeal to gamers, "Pokemon Go" may end up failing to entice many investors in Asia to pour their money into Japanese stocks.

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