Business / Tech

'Pokemon Go' developer plans wider debut 'as soon as possible'

Bloomberg

The global rollout of “Pokemon Go” is being held back by the unexpected popularity of the game, which has shot to the top of download charts since it debuted less than a week ago.

Niantic Inc., which developed “Pokemon Go” with Nintendo Co. and Pokemon Co., is working to boost server capacity to keep up with data traffic and introduce the location-based smartphone game outside of the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, the countries where it debuted last Wednesday.

Masashi Kawashima, Niantic’s Asia-Pacific director, said a release in other countries would happen “as soon as possible,” while declining to give a specific timeline.

Niantic isn’t putting priority on any country or region, such as Japan, Asia or Europe, but rather looking to roll out “Pokemon Go” when it’s ready in any given area.

Since its debut, “Pokemon Go” has captured peoples’ attention by combining the beloved 20-year-old game franchise and mobile gaming into a new experience that encourages users to traverse their physical surroundings, phone in hand, to find new characters.

A ready-made pool of fans, nurtured on playing cards, video games and cartoon shows, have embraced the idea of finding, training and pitting “pocket monsters” against each other using their smartphones.

“We are not trying to time the releases, but rather we’re trying to make sure that people can properly play the game once it is out,” Kawashima said in an interview in Tokyo. “We are working hard to make that happen. That’s based on the amount of access we’re seeing in the few days since launch.”

A team of about 60 people worked on “Pokemon Go,” he said. Most were based in Japan or San Francisco, where the Google spinoff is based, Kawashima said. Until recently, Niantic was best known as the company behind Ingress, a mobile game that uses real-world locations and requires players to move through cities and towns to capture virtual territory. “Pokemon Go” employs a similar idea.

While free to download, “Pokemon Go” lets people purchase Pokeballs and other digital items that make it easier for players to find and capture Pokemon. Kawashima didn’t give any figures but said there “were a lot of sales.” He said, however, that players don’t have to spend money to enjoy and advance within the game.

“Where Nintendo, Pokemon Co. and we all agree is that we don’t want to make the game one where someone has to pay to win,” Kawashima said.

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