Sat, Jul 23, 2016 - Page 10 News List

Japan eagerly welcomes ‘Pokemon Go’

AFP, TOKYO

Pikachu was yesterday welcomed home by thousands of enthusiastic Japanese gamers as the global phenomenon that is Pokemon Go finally launched in its native market.

The smartphone game has now been launched in more than 40 countries, including the US and much of Europe, but Japan — where Nintendo Co started the mythical creature franchise 20 years ago — was kept waiting.

The suspense lasted for days, as international media reports about a timeline for the Japan rollout kept changing, and Nintendo, Pokemon Co and the game’s US-based developer, Niantic Inc, all declined to comment.

However, that finally ended yesterday, as the game was made available online in Japan.

“We are truly happy that we have been able to bring this to Japan, where Pokemon was born,” Niantic announced on its blog.

It attributed the delay in Japan to responses “beyond our expectations” after the game’s rolling release began on July 6.

User reaction in Japan was ecstatic.

High-school student Mamiko Amaha, 16, was immersed in Pokemon Go with a group of girlfriends in Tokyo’s historic Asakusa district in search of Pokemon characters, as crowds of tourists strolled around.

“It was like: ‘Finally! I want to play it immediately,’” Amaha said outside the colorful Sensoji Temple of her reaction when the app became available.

“When we’re playing, we see Pokemon on our friend’s shoulder,” she added. “So we’re like: ‘It’s there, it’s there.’”

Since its global launch, Pokemon Go has sparked a worldwide frenzy among users who have taken to the streets with their smartphones.

The game has given a shot in the arm to Nintendo’s nascent move into mobile gaming — after it abandoned its long-standing consoles-only policy.

The videogame giant’s stock at one stage had more than doubled in the past couple of weeks, with its market value earlier this week soaring to ¥4.5 trillion (US$42.39 billion), meaning it was more valuable than Japan Inc standard bearer Sony Corp.

The stock rose on the Japan launch, surging as much as 6.8 percent as investors cheered the rollout, but later pared gains to rise 1.4 percent in mid-afternoon trading.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s Japan and Pokemon Co officially announced a collaboration whereby the fast-food chain’s outlets are to be key locations — gyms and “PokeStops” — for Pokemon Go players.

McDonald’s Japan shares rose about 3 percent following the announcement.

Amid widespread anticipation before the official release, the government issued a rare safety guide warning of the dangers gamers could face, from heatstroke to online scams.

Another potential pitfall could be Pokemon Go’s effect on workplace discipline.

“Pokemon Go came, I cannot bother with work,” one person said on Twitter minutes after the game hit Google Play.

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