Pokemon fans in Japan can at last grab their smartphones and set off outdoors in pursuit of monsters as “Pokemon Go” debuted Friday.
After it launched overseas on July 6, the GPS-based smartphone game has already become a massive hit in more than 30 countries. The unexplained delay in releasing it in Japan left die-hard fans perplexed and itching to go.
“Pokemon Go,” a game that is free to download and play, uses the phone’s GPS sensor and camera to guide players around streets and parks to find and capture Pokemon monsters. The characters are superimposed on a live camera image of the surrounding scenery, offering an immersion experience that many find addictive.
“Everyone has been waiting for this,” said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute. “There’s no doubt it will be popular in Japan as well.”
There was broad speculation over why the pocket monsters were not unleashed earlier in Japan, but server capacity has emerged as the reason.
“The reaction we’ve received was more than expected and so we had to keep people in Japan waiting due to server capacity,” John Hanke, who heads U.S.-based “Pokemon Go” developer Niantic Inc. said in a statement.
The firm is understood to have been working to ensure that the behind-the-scenes infrastructure could cope with a massive surge in traffic.
“But we are very happy that we have launched the game in Japan today,” Hanke said, adding that players should be careful about their surroundings when playing.
In the U.S., there have been reports of people getting robbed and causing car accidents, as well as entering restricted areas including a nuclear power plant, in their pursuit of monsters.
The Cabinet Office on Thursday released a nine-point warning, including that players should guard against heatstroke as they walk around in the hot summer weather. It also warns people against playing while they are walking and as well as watch out for fake “Pokemon Go” apps.
Information security firm Trend Micro Inc. said Thursday that such fake apps have emerged overseas.
The firm has confirmed 43 counterfeit products, all of which run on Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
Of the fake products, 19 are fraudulent or “nuisance” apps, such as programs to remotely control smartphones to steal individual information, flash unwanted advertisements, and install other irregular apps, the firm said.
Meanwhile, the monster success of “Pokemon Go” has spread positive economic effects, especially for two struggling firms behind it — Nintendo and primary sponsor McDonald’s Japan.
Nintendo is widely seen as a latecomer to the smartphone gaming sector.
While it was apparently not directly involved with the development of “Pokemon Go,” its share price soared from ¥14,490 before launch to ¥28,220 as of close on Friday.
And McDonald’s Japan, which suffered major damage when an expired-meat scandal in 2014 and allegations of contaminated food sent diners elsewhere, is also seen profiting from the game.
Under a sponsorship deal, the roughly 2,900 McDonald’s eateries in Japan will become spots known as Gyms and PokeStops, where people can train their monsters and pit them in battle against those of other players, and also obtain items to progress in the game.
Its stock price jumped to ¥3,620 on Friday, compared with ¥3,000 a week earlier.
The game was jointly created by Niantic, a Google spinoff, and The Pokemon Co., while Nintendo Co. makes a wearable device called Pokemon Go Plus that works with the app.
It is available for smartphones powered by Apple Inc.’s iOS and Android.
In its first two weeks the game registered more than 30 million downloads and made $35 million in revenue, according to U.S.-based app research firm SensorTower Inc.
The firm also said Tuesday that “Pokemon Go” racked up the fastest 10 million downloads ever, in just seven days, beating other smartphone smash-hit games such as “Clash Royale” and “Candy Crush Jelly Saga.”
The game earns revenue by selling virtual currency called Pokecoins that players can use to purchase in-game items.
They can earn coins in the course of play, and those who want to advance swiftly can purchase Pokecoins from an in-app store using a credit card or gift card.
Information from Bloomberg, Jiji added