A so-called “augmented reality” game played on smartphones has become a craze on the streets and given a massive boost to the share price of Japanese video-game giant Nintendo.
In the less than a week since Pokemon GO was released it has surged to the top of the app charts and Nintendo’s shares jumped over 56 percent.
The number of daily active users is rivalling social network Twitter according to web analytics firm SimilarWeb and within two days of releas it was installed on more than five percent of Android devices in the United States.
In New York, player Freydo Cavero enthused: “It’s a fun, easy game that everyone can relate to, people that have never touched Pokemon or even played, like, any of the cards or any of the games are like, all right, it seems kind of cool, I can play this anywhere, from my home.”
His friend Margo Donis added: “I’ve got a lot of my friends hooked up that haven’t played Pokemon before, I’ve got them hooked up on it now.”
Users have to hunt for Pokemon creatures in real-world locations using GPS and their phone camera. Once “captured’ the creatures can be “trained” and used to “fight” against each other.
Social media is full of reports of players hurting themselves by tripping and falling while glued to their phone screens.
The authorities in the US have warned people not to drive while searching for characters.
NHTSA (@NHTSAgov) July 8, 2016
Though the game is free to download, Nintendo is set to make big money through adverts and additional items available for buy to make it easier to find and capture Pokemon creatures. There are also tie-in products.
However some analysts question whether Pokemon GO will be able to generate the kind of sustained excitement that would significantly boost Nintendo’s earnings – particularly given that the company now has to contend with a strengthening in the yen.
So far the game has only been officially released in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but it is coming to Europe soon, along with Japan – one of the world’s biggest gaming markets.