22 February 2019
Nintendo's new Pokemon Go mobile game has vaulted to the top of free app rankings on iTunes Store and Google Play Store. Photo: Bloomberg
Nintendo's new Pokemon Go mobile game has vaulted to the top of free app rankings on iTunes Store and Google Play Store. Photo: Bloomberg

Nintendo gets a boost from Pokémon Go

Japan’s Nintendo has seen its shares surge further on Monday after a 9 percent gain last Friday on hopes that its earnings will get a major boost from its newly-launched Pokémon Go video game.

Unlike its previous games, Pokémon Go is the first mobile game from Nintendo. iPhone or Android phone users can download the game for free. The game has managed to jump to the top of the free app rankings in iTunes Store and Google Play Store after its debut in the US and Australia on July 6.

The game allows players to capture, battle, train, and trade virtual Pokémon who appear throughout the world. And it has adopted GPS and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies in the game. Players can become trainers and walk around in the real world to collect things and catch Pokémon at various check-points in their surroundings.

Capture of Pokémon is quite exciting. Players have to reach a certain place in the real world as shown in the GPS, and turn on their mobile camera to find the Pokémon. Then player will be able to unlock Pokeballs and capture the creature.

For example, if a player enters the game at home in Mong Kok, the game could request him/her to complete some tasks in places like Langham Place, Temple Street, or railway station in order to collect Pokeballs or to enhance certain skills.

After completion of such tasks, the player may see a notice on the map which will guide him to Flower Market to track down a hidden Pokémon. The player has to turn on the camera to scan the surroundings, and find the little creature. The player needs to do his best to tame and capture it so that it can help him capture the next Pokémon.

The game is fairly user-friendly in the first stage. Players can find check points and Pokémon everywhere in their surroundings. If a player lives in Mong Kok but works in Central, he/she can collect stuff or capture Pokémon in Statue Square or IFC at Central.

However, soon afterwards the players may have to go farther places such as the Peak on Hong Kong Island, the Buddha or the Disneyland on Lantau Island if they want to find rarer tools or creatures.

Simply speaking, the game has combined GPS and AR technologies. Players have to walk out of their room and go into the real world.

Nintendo’s former president Satoru Iwata, who died of cancer exactly a year ago, always said mobile games should encourage people to interact with each other, rather than put the players in a situation where they only interacting with the machine.

That’s why Nintendo introduced Mario Kart racing games, which allow four or eight players to join the game, as well as home video game console Wii.

Nintendo and other console game companies have been struggling in the era of mobile games. Iwata was determined to lead the company through tough times, pinning his hopes on Pokémon Go.

The new product marks the first-time that GPS and AR technologies have been successfully integrated into a game.

Pokémon Go is a free game to download, but players need to make separate purchases if they want to track and capture Pokémon more easily. Also, there is potential that Nintendo can cooperate with various shops and capitalize on O2O business.

For example, players can be required to enter a shopping mall or a restaurant at certain time in order to complete a task.

That could help attract traffic and boost sales at those places. In that sense, Nintendo could become a semi-advertising platform and generate revenue from advertising in its Pokémon Go game.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 11.

Translation by Julie Zhu with additional reporting.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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