Pokemon Go – having become a global phenomenon in just days – is set to make big money but is also creating controversy.
The ‘augmented reality’ game played on smartphones is now rolling out over Europe having gained more than one million users a day in the United States where it was initially launched along with Australia and New Zealand. By Thursday it had gone online in Britain, Germany and Spain.
But people chasing the virtual Pokemon Japanese cartoon characters that appear to pop up on their smartphones have been accused of disrespect by seeking them out at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, DC, and Holocaust Memorials the US capital and Berlin.
In Poland – where the game is not yet officially online – Auschwitz issued a warning.
Museum spokesman Bartosz Bartyzel said: “The former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau is not only a museum today, it is above all a place of remembrance, a place where people come not only to find out about history, but they come for moments of meditation, reflection, often for prayer. It is inconceivable that we should treat this place as a place for games or to have fun.”
A spate of accidents has also been blamed on the game with people tripping while watching screens or even crashing their cars when distracted by playing.
The authorities – particularly in the United States – have issue warnings after one man drove into a tree in upstate New York while in Texas an illegally parked car was hit from behind after the driver jumped out to catch a Pokemon.
The craze has boosted maker Nintendo’s shares by 50 percent in a week on the prospect of bigger profits through partnerships with retailers that would become sponsored locations to host virtual Pokemon characters thereby luring in more customers.