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Pokémon Go (stylized Pokémon GO) is a location-based, augmented reality game for mobile devices developed by Niantic for iOS and Android operating systems. It was released in most regions of the world in July 2016. Typically played on mobile phones, players use the device's GPS and camera to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game is free-to-play, although in-app purchases are advertised for additional gameplay items.
Pokémon Go was released to mixed reviews. Reviewers praised the game and the incentive to be more active in the real world, while noting technical issues apparent at launch. It quickly became one of the most used mobile apps shortly after release and was downloaded by more than 40 million people worldwide. It has been credited with popularizing location-based and augmented reality gaming as well as for promoting physical activity. It also attracted controversy for contributing to car accidents and becoming a public nuisance at some locations, such as the U.S. Holocaust Museum inWashington, DC.
After establishing a game account, the player creates an avatar by selecting a hair, skin, and eye color; style; and outfit. After the avatar is created, it is displayed at the player's current location along with a map of the player's immediate surroundings. Features on the map include a number of PokéStops and Pokémon gyms. PokéStops provide players with items, such as eggs, Poké Balls, and potions and can be equipped with items called lures, which attract wild Pokémon. Gyms serve as battle locations for team-based king of the hill matches. These are typically located at places of interest. These locations are re-purposed portals from Ingress, Niantic's previous augmented reality game.
As players travel the real world, their avatar moves along the game's map. Different Pokémon species reside in different areas of the world; for example, water-type Pokémon are generally found near water. When a player encounters a Pokémon, they may view it either in augmented reality (AR) mode or with a live rendered, generic background. AR mode uses the camera and gyroscope on the player's mobile device to display an image of a Pokémon as though it were in the real world. Players can take screen shots of the Pokémon they encounter either with or without the AR mode activated.
Unlike other installments in the Pokémon series, players in Pokémon Go do not battle wild Pokémon to capture them. During an encounter with a wild Pokémon, the player may throw a Poké Ball at it by flicking it from the bottom of the screen up toward the Pokémon. If the Pokémon is successfully caught, it will come under the ownership of the player. Factors in the success rate of capture include the right force, the right time and the type of Poké Ball used. After capturing a wild Pokémon, the player is awarded two types of in-game currencies: candies and stardust. The candies awarded by a successful catch depends on what evolutionary chain a Pokémon belongs to. A player can use stardust and candies to raise a Pokémon's "combat power" (CP). However, only candies are needed to evolve a Pokémon. Each Pokémon evolution tree has its own type of candy which can only be used to evolve or level up. The player can also transfer the Pokémon back to the Pokémon professor to earn one more candy and create room for more Pokémon. The ultimate goal of the game is to complete the entries in the Pokédex, a comprehensive Pokémon encyclopedia, by capturing and evolving to obtain the original 151 Pokémon.[note 2]
All Pokémon are displayed with a combat power. A Pokémon's combat power is a rough measure of how powerful that Pokémon is in battle. Not all Pokémon of the same species will have the same CP. Generally, as a player levels up they will catch Pokémon with higher CP.
Players earn experience points for various in-game activities. Players rise in level as they earn experience points. At level five, the player is able to battle at a Pokémon gym and join one of three teams (red for Team Valor, which uses Moltres as their mascot; blue for Team Mystic, which uses Articuno as their mascot; or yellow for Team Instinct, which uses Zapdos as their mascot), which act as larger factions within the Pokémon Go world. If players enter a Pokémon gym that is controlled by a player that is not part of their team, they can challenge the leader to lower the gym's "prestige". Once the prestige of a gym is lowered to zero, the player will take control of the gym and is able to deposit one Pokémon to defend it. Similarly, a team can upgrade the prestige of a gym under their control by battling the gym leader. Each time a gym's level is raised, another player from the same team can deposit one of their Pokémon.
Although the game is free to play, it supports in-app purchases of Poké Balls and other items. By July 14, the game's support page included the ability to submit requests for new PokéStops and gyms, but an automated email response explains that new submissions are currently not being accepted.
The concept for the game was conceived in 2014 by Satoru Iwata of Nintendo and Tsunekazu Ishihara ofThe Pokémon Company as an April Fools' Day collaboration with Google, called Pokémon Challenge.Ishihara was a fan of developer Niantic's previous augmented reality game, Ingress, and saw the game's concept as a perfect match for the Pokémon series. Niantic used data from Ingress to populate the locations for PokéStops and gyms within Pokémon Go. In 2015, Ishihara dedicated his speech at the game's announcement on September 10 to Iwata, who died two months earlier. The game's soundtrack was written by longtime Pokémon series composer, Junichi Masuda, who also assisted with some of the game's design. Among the game's visual designers was Dennis Hwang, who previously worked at Google and created the logo of Gmail.
On March 4, 2016, Niantic announced a Japan-exclusive beta test would begin later that month, allowing players to assist in refining the game before its full release. The beta test was later expanded to other countries. On April 7, it was announced that the beta would expand to Australia and New Zealand. Then, on May 16, the signups for the field test were opened to the United States. The test came to an end on June 30.
On July 24 at Comic Con 2016, John Hanke—founder of Niantic—revealed the appearances of the three team leaders: Candela (Team Valor), Blanche (Team Mystic), and Spark (Team Instinct). Hanke conveyed that approximately 10% of the ideas for the game were implemented. Future updates, including the much-anticipated addition of trading, more Pokémon, implementation of Pokémon Centers at PokéStops, a patch for the "three step glitch", and easier training, were also confirmed. He also stated that Niantic would be continuing support for the game for "years to come".
Pokémon Go Plus
The Pokémon Go Plus is a Bluetooth low energy wearable device that allows players to perform certain actions in the game without looking at their smart device. When a player is near a Pokémon or PokéStop, the Plus vibrates. The player can then press the button to capture the Pokémon; the player cannot check what they have caught until the device is connected to an appropriate mobile device. It is set for release in 2016. The design is a combination of a Poké Ball and the shape of the Google Maps pin. The decision to create the device rather than create a smart watch app was to increase uptake among players for whom a smart watch is prohibitively expensive.
The game was released in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Stateson July 6, 2016. Due to server strain from high demand upon release, Niantic CEO John Hanke stated that the release in most other regions was "paused until Niantic was comfortable" fixing the issues.The rollout resumed on July 13 with a release in Germany, in the United Kingdom on July 14, and in Italy, Spain and Portugal on July 15. July 16 saw the game released in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus,Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Greenland, Hungary,Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands,Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, andSwitzerland. It was released in Canada on July 17. The game was made available in Puerto Rico on July 19. The Japanese launch was initially reported to be on July 20; however the game was delayed after a sponsorship deal with McDonald's was leaked,instead releasing on July 22. Although the game was proposed to be released in France on July 15, it was postponed until July 24 out of respect and due to safety concerns following a terrorist attack in Nice on July 14. Hong Kong saw its own release on July 25. According to True Corporation, the game is planned for launch in Thailand in September.
Indonesia was the first Asian country to have the game playable, despite not being officially released in that region. In South Korea, the game has not been released yet and major restrictions on the use of online mapping data exist. However, due to a glitch, a small area around Sokcho in the northeastern part of the country was considered a part of Niantic's North Korea mapping region, making the game fully playable in that area. Numerous people have taken advantage of the gap to play the game. Bus tickets from the capital city of Seoul sold out and people living within Sokcho shared information on free Wi-Fi areas to tourists. Players also discovered a gym in Panmunjom, along the Korean Demilitarized Zone; however, Niantic later removed it from the game. Following the release of Pokémon Go in Japan, parts of Busan also became playable as parts of the city are considered part of Japan's mapping area due to the proximity of Tsushima Island.
In mainland China, Google services are banned by the Great Firewall. Players of Pokémon Go in China bought Australian App StoreIDs and used a GPS spoofing app to use Google services and because there are no Pokémon to catch in China. Many Chinese people downloaded a clone app called City Spirit Go, which was released shortly after Pokémon Go's beta test in Japan.
Downloads and sales
Pokémon Go rapidly topped the American iOS App Store's "Top Grossing" and "Free" charts. The game has become the fastest game to top the App Store and Google Play, beating Clash Royale, and in its first week became the most downloaded app on the App Store of all time. Within two days of release, it was installed on more than 5% of Android devices in the United States, according to SimilarWeb, According to SensorTower, the game was downloaded more than 10 million times within a week of release, becoming the fastest such app to do so. However, according to SurveyMonkey the game became the most active mobile game in the United States ever with 21 million active users on July 12, eclipsing Candy Crush Saga's peak of 20 million. In contrast, SensorTower estimated 15 million global downloads by July 13. By July 15, approximately 1.3 million people were playing the game in the Netherlands, despite the app not being officially released in the country. By July 20, more than 30 million people downloaded the game worldwide. On the day of release in Japan, more than 10 million people downloaded the game, including 1.3 million in the first three hours.
Through in-game purchases, the game generated more than US$35 million in revenue by July 20. From iOS users alone, the game generated approximately US$1.6 million in daily revenue. The average daily usage of the app on Android devices in July 2016 exceeded Snapchat, Tinder, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Investors were buoyed by the response to the initial release of Pokémon Go on July 7, with Nintendo's share price rising by an initial 10% and by July 14 shares rose to as high as 50%. Despite Nintendo only owning a 32% stake in the Pokémon franchise, an undisclosed stake in Niantic, and prospectively receiving only 30% of the Pokémon Go sales revenue, Nintendo's market value increased by US$9 billion within five days of release of Pokémon Go. The trend continued for more than a week after the game's release and by July 19, the stock value of Nintendo more than doubled as compared to pre-release. Turnover sales reached a record-breaking ¥703.6 billion (US$6.6 billion); and trading of the stock accounted for a quarter of all trades on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's main board. The Financial Times believed that investors were speculating not on Pokémon Go as such, but on future Nintendo app releases being as successful as the company moves more into the mobile app market—an area they were historically reluctant to enter in the belief it would damage its portable console sales. Nintendo plans to release four more smartphone app games by March 2017, and investors remarked that Pokémon Go showed Nintendo still has some of the "most valuable character intellectual property in the world" with franchises such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid.
By July 22, Nintendo gained ¥1.8 trillion (US$17.6 billion) in market capitalization since the game's launch. However, following clarification from Nintendo that the company did not produce Pokémon Go nor have tangible financial gains from it, its stock fell by 18%—equating to a ¥708 billion (US$6.7 billion) loss in market value—on July 25. This was the largest single-day decline for Nintendo since 1990 and the maximum one-day exchange of finances allowed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The company has an approximate 13% "effective economic stake" in the app according to Macquarie Securities.
The surge in stocks extended beyond just Nintendo, with First Baking Co., Tomy, TV Tokyo, and Bank of Kyoto all seeing significant to near-record gains. Similarly, Zagg, which owns a company that manufactures battery cases, saw a 25% rise in its stock in relation toPokémon Go.
At launch, the game suffered from frequent server outages due to extreme usage. Frequent crashes and authentication errors plagued the game's release and persisted for several days. For the first two days after launch, players were unable to access the game through their Pokémon Trainer Club accounts; only Gmail-based accounts were able to gain access to the game. Servers again suffered frequent outages in Australia on July 11; players blamed people in the United Kingdom for bypassing local servers and using Australian ones to play the game before its official release. On July 16, a few hours after the release in many European countries, the game's servers temporarily went down. The outage was claimed by a hacking group called "PoodleCorp", who said they used a DDoS attack to take them down. The official Pokémon Go Twitter page noticed the outage and the problem was fixed later that day. The next day, the servers went down again as the game was launched in Canada. John Hanke issued an apology for the server issues at Comic Con 2016, stating "we weren't provisioned for what happened".
Some early iOS installs of Pokémon Go required users to provide the app with full access to their Google accounts, thereby allowing the app to "access players' Gmail-based email, Google Drive-based files, photos and videos stored in Google Photos, and any other content within their Google accounts". The Pokémon Company and Niantic responded to the concerns, recognizing that the iOS app, at the time, "... erroneously requests full access permission for the user's Google account ..." However, Adam Reeve—the person who initially made claims of the security issues in a Tumblr post—later backtracked on his claim and was not "100 percent sure" it was valid. Dan Guido, CEO of the security company Trail of Bits, analyzed the app's programming and discovered that although the game did request full account access, this did not enable third-party usage as initially conveyed. Guido found that this did enable Niantic to access people's email addresses and phone numbers unintentionally. A subsequent iOS app update reduced the scope of access. Niantic also issued a statement assuring users that no information was collected nor was any information beyond what was necessary to use the app accessed.
Pokémon Go was released to mixed reviews according to aggregator review websiteMetacritic. Upon release, critics called the experience enjoyable, but noted the game's technical issues.
Critics praised various aspects of Pokémon Go. Oscar Dayus (Pocket Gamer) said that the game was an immensely enjoyable experience and continued with how "the very personal nature of catching Pokémon in your own neighborhood made me smile more than any game has for years". Jeremy Parish (US Gamer) compared the game and its social aspects to a massively multiplayer online game. Reviewers also praised the game enabling the promotion of physical exercise. Terri Schwartz (IGN) said it was "secretly the best exercise app out there" and that it changed her daily walking routine. Patrick Allen (Lifehacker) wrote an article with tips about how to work out using Pokémon Go. Julia Belluz (Vox) said it could be the "greatest unintentional health fad ever" and wrote that one of the results of the game that the developers may not have realized was that "it seems to be getting people moving".
Philip Kollar and Allegra Frank (Polygon) both agreed that "Pokémon Go is an exciting social experience" though they said they were not sure how long the game would last, and depending on how frequently Niantic updates it, it could either last for coming years or end up as "a brush fire craze that the whole gaming world is talking about for a few weeks and then is forgotten".
Other critics expressed more negative opinions of the game, with many citing frequent crashes and other technical issues, along with shallow gameplay. Kallie Plagge (IGN) said that despite the game lacking in polish and depth, the overall experience made up for it. Matt Peckham (Time) criticized the game for its frequent crashes. Mike Cosimano (Destructoid) also took issue with the game, saying the original idea showed promise, but was improperly executed. Kat Brewster (The Guardian) wrote that although she thoughtPokémon Go was not a good game, it was "a great experience". The server problems also received negative press. Miguel Concepcion (GameSpot) said despite him enjoying the game's strong social appeal and visual design, the game's "initial iteration is a buggy mess on all levels", with one of the reasons being the constant server problems. Another glitch that appeared a few days after launch was the "three-step glitch", reviewers also gave this bug negative press. Patricia Hernandez (Kotaku) said, "the three step glitch adds to what has been a terrible launch for Pokémon Go". Paul Tassi (Forbes) said that due to this bug it's "anyone's best guess where Pokémon are 99% of the time" and that it "renders almost all traditional methods of tracking pointless".
Criticism and incidents
The app was criticized for using locations such as cemeteries and memorials as sites to catch Pokémon, including the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, andArlington National Cemetery. The game sparked complaints from Dutch company ProRail, who said that players entered their railway tracks, and fire stations told players to not impede their staff by congregating outside. The game's distribution of PokéStops and gyms (derived from the portals of Ingress, Niantic's science fiction-themed augmented reality game) has been noted to be sparser in many minority neighborhoods in a reflection of American demographics. Residents of the Sydney suburb of Rhodes became fed up with large numbers of players gathering in their area, and threw waterbombs at visiting players.
Multiple police departments in various countries have issued warnings, some tongue-in-cheek, regarding inattentive driving, trespassing, and being targeted by criminals due to being unaware of one's surroundings. People have suffered various injuries from accidents related to the game, and Bosnian players have been warned to stay out of minefields left over from the 1990s Bosnian War. On July 20, 2016, it was reported that a 18-year-old boy in Chiquimula, Guatemala was shot and killed while playing the game in the late evening hours. This was the first reported death in connection with the app. The boy's 17-year-old cousin, who was accompanying the victim, was shot in the foot. Police speculated that the shooters used the game's GPS capability to find the two. In Japan, the first accident occurred within hours of the game's release.
Al Azhar in Cairo, Egypt, described the game as "harmful mania," and a defense and national security committee parliamentarian regarded it an espionage tool. A Cossack leader declared that it "Smacks of Satanism," Kuwait banned the game from government sites, Indonesian officials deemed it a national security threat, and in Israel the IDF banned the game from Army bases out of security considerations. In Saudi Arabia the General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars declared, in light of a 2001 fatwa banning the Pokémon card game as a form of gambling, that the electronic app required a new ruling.
The game has been referred to as a "social media phenomenon" which has brought people together from all walks of life. Numerous media outlets referred to the surge in popularity as "Pokémon Go Mania" or simply "Pokémania".
The massive popularity of the game resulted in several unusual positive effects. For example, the game enabled players to help catch criminals and to report crimes in progress, and has even aided law enforcement's community relations,albeit with caveats. Businesses have benefited from the nearby presence of PokéStops (or their being PokéStops themselves) with the concomitant influx of people, and the intense exploration of communities has brought local history to the forefront. Some establishments considered purchasing lures in the game to attract additional players to PokéStops on their property. Within a week of its release, a secondary market emerged for the game, both for the resell of high-level accounts on Craigslist and PlayerUp, and for the sale of expert advice on Thumbtack. Wireless provider T-Mobile US started an offer for free data for a year for Pokémon Go sessions, and Yelp added a filter that only shows businesses which have a PokéStop nearby. National parks across the United States saw an influx of visitors due to the game, with "hundreds or thousands" of people visiting the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C. on the weekend following Pokémon Go's release in the country. Small museums with PokéStops placed at exhibits also reported increased attendance, such as the McNay Art Museum inSan Antonio, Texas, and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Boca Raton, Florida. Charity organizations also sought engagement from players, with animal shelters offering dog walks to people who want to hatch eggs.
Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, stated that he hoped the app was released in Brazil before the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in the city, and United States presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump mentioned the app during their 2016 election campaigns. Shortly after the game's release, Bellator mixed martial artist Michael Pagecelebrated a knockout of his match opponent, Evangelista Santosby putting on a red Ash Ketchum-like hat and rolling a prop Poké Ball in Santos's direction.
The game was credited for popularizing augmented reality, and was praised by genderfluid groups for letting the players choose a "style" instead of "gender".
The "Pokémon Theme" from the animated series saw a 630% increase in listeners on music streaming platform Spotify during the month of the game's release. Meanwhile, streaming services such as Hulu have experienced an increased viewership of the Pokémon series and films. A Twitch channel, Twitch Plays Pokémon Go, was created that mimics the crowd-played Twitch Plays Pokémon channel, allowing viewers to direct a virtual avatar in the game using an iPhone programmed to spoof its location.
Multiple unofficial, third-party apps were created to correspond with Pokémon Go. Notable apps include: "Poké Radar" and "Helper for Pokémon Go", where players can crowdsource much of the Pokémon that can be found in the game at a particular time. At its peak of popularity, "Poké Radar" hit #2 on the Apple App Store, behind Pokémon Go itself.Another app, GoChat, which allows players to leave messages for other players at specific locations, accrued more than 1 million downloads in five days and reached the top 10 in the Apple App Store. However, the app is not monetized to avoid possible copyright issues with The Pokémon Company and is proving too costly to maintain. According to RiskIQ, at least 215 fake versions of the game were available by July 17, 2016. Several of these fake apps contained malicious programming and viruses.This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pokémon GO", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.