Pokémon Go captures fans at home launch

Office workers and children on school holidays streamed out onto Tokyo’s streets yesterday to play Pokémon Go after the hit mobile game was released in its home country.

Anticipation had been building for weeks in Japan, the country that gave birth to the franchise two decades ago.

The smartphone game, which topped the country’s download charts just like it did on its US debut earlier this month, lets users collect virtual ‘pocket mon-sters’ scattered around the city on a digital map and battle them against each other.

By lunchtime, with parks and benches still wet after a morning drizzle, dozens of people outside Tokyo station were playing Pokémon Go while eating sandwiches and rice balls.

Children congregated at a Pokémon store and at McDonald’s outlets, which are among the digital pit stops where people can collect tools and train their monsters.

“I saw the news on the internet two days ago, but couldn’t download it,” said Hirokazu Kikuchi, who was visiting the nation’s capital with his son.

The wait has not been easy for Japan’s legions of Pokémon fans. Even though the country is the second-most lucrative market for smartphone apps, gamers had to sit and watch as 35 other countries, including Malta and Luxembourg, became virtual playgrounds for Pokémon trainers.

Nintendo, which holds stakes in Pokémon and the game’s developer Niantic, saw its stock almost double following the game’s debut in the US. Its market value today is $37.7bn (€34.2bn).

“Everyone had been waiting for this,” said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute. “There’s no doubt it will be popular in Japan as well.”

In Japan, where there is no shortage of rules and regulations aimed at keeping people safe and informed, the government was ready with fresh warnings.

A nine-point guide by one agency advised people not to stay out in the summer heat too long and to be on alert for natural disasters such as tsunamis while playing outside.

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