Pokemon fans in Japan can at last grab their smartphones and set off outdoors in pursuit of monsters as “Pokemon Go” debuted Friday.
The GPS-based smartphone game is already a massive hit in more than 30 countries, after it launched overseas on July 6. The unexplained delay in releasing it in Japan left die-hard fans perplexed and itching to go.
For Japan’s legions of Pokemon fans, the wait hasn’t been easy. Even though the country is the second-most lucrative market for smartphone apps, Japanese gamers had to sit and watch as 35 other countries, including Malta and Luxembourg, became virtual playgrounds for Pokemon trainers hunting virtual monsters on streets and in parks.
McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan), which began selling Pokemon-themed meals and is expected to launch a marketing campaign through the app, jumped as much as 9.1 percent. The company confirmed it is the exclusive partner for the app and will have more than 2,500 of its stores as ‘PokeStops’ and 400 stores as ‘PokeGyms’ in the game. Its stock has jumped more than 20 percent since Pokemon Go launched.
Shares of related companies also rose, including electronic parts makers Hosiden Corp., which Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. said may be producing an accessory for Pokemon Go, also rose more than 9 percent.
“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.
There was broad speculation over why the pocket monsters were not unleashed earlier in Japan, but one of the most convincing explanations is to do with server capacity.
In a July 15 article in Forbes, John Hanke, who heads U.S.-based “Pokemon Go” developer Niantic Inc., said the firm was working to ensure that the behind-scenes infrastructure could cope with a massive surge in traffic.
Meanwhile, it was announced Wednesday that McDonald’s Holdings Japan will be a primary sponsor of the game and will help to promote it.
The roughly 2,900 McDonald’s eateries 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.
The game was jointly created by Niantic, a Google spinoff, and the Pokemon Company, 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 Google Inc.’s Android.
In its first two weeks the game secured more than 30 million downloads and made $35 million in revenue, according to U.S.-based app research firm SensorTower Inc.
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.
The monster success of “Pokemon Go” has given a welcome lift to two struggling firms behind it — Nintendo and McDonald’s Japan.
Nintendo is widely seen as a latecomer to the smartphone gaming sector. Its share price soared from ¥14,490 before the launch to ¥28,000 on Thursday.
And McDonald’s Japan suffered damage when an expired-meat scandal in 2014 and allegations of contaminated food sent diners elsewhere.
Its stock price jumped to ¥3,475 as of Thursday, compared with ¥3,000 a week before.
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