Apple: Pokemon Go Has Most Downloads
The game launched in North America earlier this month and just released in Japan, where it is expected to continue its blockbuster run. The game is currently the top free and top-grossing app on Google Play and iTunes.
Most estimates from experts place revenue at $1-$2.3 million per day for the game, putting it on par with hits like Clash Royale.
Pokémon Go (stylized Pokémon GO) is a free-to-play location-based, augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. It was released in most regions of the world in July 2016. In the game, players use the smart 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 supports in-app purchases, which are used for additional gameplay items.
Pokémon Go was released to mixed reviews. Reviewers praised the game’s concept and the incentive to be more active in the real world, while criticizing technical issues apparent at launch. It quickly became one of the most used mobile apps shortly after release, and was downloaded by more than 75 million people worldwide. It was credited with popularizing location-based and augmented reality gaming, as well as for promoting physical activity. It also attracted controversy for contributing to accidents and becoming a public nuisance at some locations.
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.
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 of The Pokémon Company as an April Fools’ Day collaboration with Google, called Pokémon Challenge. Ishihara was a fan of developer Niantic’s previous transreality game, Ingress, and saw the game’s concept as a perfect match for the Pokémon series. Niantic used the crowdsourced 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 September 2016. The design consists 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 States on 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, and Switzerland. 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 Store IDs 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.
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.