Not every Chinese person speaks Mandarin.
With Pokemon Sun and Moon, Nintendo has announced that these games will be released in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese in Chinese-speaking territories. This includes China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. However, it would appear that these translation efforts have had a bigger impact on Hong Kong fans than Nintendo might have initially thought.
In Hong Kong, the official language isn’t Mandarin, it’s Cantonese. After Nintendo released the official Chinese names for the original 151 Pokemon, Hong Kong fans were not pleased at all about Pikachu’s name change. Quartz explains the reason for fans’ widespread displeasure rather concisely.
“Pikachu was originally translated as 比卡超 (Bei-kaa-chyu) in Hong Kong. Now it is named 皮卡丘 (Pikaqiu). While the name 皮卡丘 in Mandarin sounds similar to the global name Pikachu (as it was always called in China and Taiwan), it reads as Pei-kaa-jau in Cantonese, which doesn’t sound the same at all.”
According to Quartz, the main issue here is that the Hong Kong fans share the sentiment that Nintendo is overlooking their culture and nomenclature. For Nintendo, unifying the Mandarin versions of the game with Simplified and Traditional Chinese probably made sense from a business standpoint. However, they likely failed to realize that language was also an important representation of identity for the Hong Kongers as well, many of whom feel that Cantonese is slowly giving way to the Chinese language.
Fans in Hong Kong have taken to protesting Pikachu’s name change at the Japanese Consulate, and some are even entertaining the possibility of boycotting Nintendo products until this issue is fixed.