Nintendo wins as Pokemon Go races up the download charts
Nintendo hasn't fully embraced the world of mobile gaming, but the early success of Pokemon Go is giving gamers and investors a taste of the rewards the Japanese gaming company may reap if it decides to go all-in.
The maker of Super Mario and Zelda games has added more than $7bn in market value since last week's debut of a new smartphone app for its fantasy monster character franchise. The game is one of a genre where digital overlaps with reality to create so called augmented reality.
Using smartphone location services Pokeom Go lets users hunt for virtual Pokemon characters at real locatons near them. It has topped the free-to-download app charts for Apple in the US and Australia since its July 7 debut, according to market researcher App Annie.
In a sign of the game's broad appeal, people are going to great lengths to play Pokemon Go, which encourages users to wander their surroundings to find "pocket monsters" to train and battle with each other. Reports have surfaced of players driving for hours to seek hard-to-reach Pokemons, or a pair of gamers in New Zealand renting a kayak to nab one in the middle of Wellington's bay.
US highway authorities told gamers not to drive while playing with the warning "Eyes up, Poké Balls down, people," on its official Twitter feed. A late-night hunt for Pokemons in Missouri led some players into a trap set up by armed robbers, local media reported. "This is some Nintendo magic," said Serkan Toto, founder of consultant Kantan Games, which specializes in Japanese mobile games.
"It's the first time a mobile game has created a buzz like this at least in the US This is basically what Nintendo is all about."
The shares of Nintendo responded with their biggest intraday jump since 1983, when they listed in Tokyo, climbing 25pc yesterday. Investors are taking Pokemon's early success as a sign that the company can still churn out hits if it commits popular characters from its Mario or Zelda franchises to mobile-gaming apps.
Pokemon Go was developed by Niantic Inc, a former Google startup behind the popular +Ingress game, which also involves location-based gameplay. Nintendo, together with its affiliate Pokemon Co and Google, last year invested in Niantic.
"Clearly Nintendo has managed to pull off something very special that has created a craze in the mobile-gaming market in a matter of days," Amir Anvarzadeh, manager of Japanese equity sales at BGC Partners, wrote in a note to clients. "This game may not be big enough to move the earnings dial in the short term, but sentiment-wise it could prove very potent at this stage for Nintendo when hopes of major success on mobile have been very deflated since last year."
The Pokemon franchise is 20 years old, which means that in addition to young fans there's an entire generation of grown-ups who can tell the difference between a Pikachu and a Raichu.
One player posted a picture on Reddit of two police officers joining an impromptu Pokemon session.
Pokemon Go is free-to-download and play, but additional items are available for purchase within the game. Nintendo also plans to release a plastic wristband device that will alert gamers to Pokemon activity. It is already the highest-grossing app in the US and Australia, according to App Annie. The game is currently only available to users in those two countries and New Zealand. (Bloomberg)