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Pokémon GO AR mobile game takes the US by storm

Pokemon go screen

The launch of Nintendo’s Pokémon GO augmented reality mobile game in the US has surpassed all expectations with downloads and engagement at unprecedented levels.

According to SimilarWeb the app was already installed on 5% of Android devices just two days after its launch last Friday. To put that into context that’s twice the install level of popular dating app Tinder and it looks bound to go a lot higher than that. In addition the app engagement level is very high, already threatening to overtake Twitter in terms of daily active users.

Since AR apps require constant connections to the cloud it looks like this initial spike has caught Nintendo a bit flat-footed. Business Insider reported that the further rollout of the game, beyond the US, Australia and New Zealand, has been paused while AR company Niantic, which partnered with Nintendo to develop the game, increases its server capacity. This led to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels to tweet an offer to help, presumably referring to AWS.

The game uses AR to superimpose Pokémon characters over the real world via a smartphone screen. In classic Pokémon style game seems to encourage people to collect virtual stuff, level-up their characters and all kinds of other Pavlovian payoffs designed to make the game as psychologically addictive as possible.

This is one of the first times an AR game seems to have captured the mass market imagination but, as reported by Tech Crunch, there remain plenty of hurdles to be overcome before AR gaming becomes the next big thing. The combination of keeping the screen on and constantly tapping the network will have a profound effect on battery life and it’s surely just a matter of time before viral videos of Pokémon GO players bumping into lamp-posts or falling down holes become widespread.

Nonetheless Nintendo shares have apparently jumped 34% since the game was launched, according to Bloomberg, as speculators wonder whether the company has hit a goldmine. Fallen giant Nintendo has historically been very good at creating addictive games, especially through its Pokémon franchise, and if it has found a clever way of extracting recurring revenue from AR gamers it could be set to return to former glories.

 

 

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