Pokémon GO to launch in 200 countries

Pokémon GO has gone viral despite having been launched in only five countries: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Germany.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People play Pokémon GO in Bryant Park, New York City.

Pokémon GO would soon be launched in roughly 200 countries and regions, said John Hanke, head of the developer behind Nintendo's overnight smash hit mobile-based game.  

He didn't give specific timeframe for the launch in an interview to Reuters on Friday, saying instead that it would be done "relatively soon." 

The game marries a classic 20-year old franchise with augmented reality.

It has gone viral despite having been launched in only five countries: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Germany. 

"Why limit it?" said Hanke, chief executive of Niantic, which developed Pokémon GO jointly with Nintendo.

A 'Pidgey' Pokémon is seen on the screen of a smartphone in downtown Toronto, Canada. Image: Reuters

Even if the game is yet to be officially rolled out, enthusiasts around the world have used improvised ways to download it. 

Niantic's first location-based augmented reality game Ingress had taken a month or two to reach that number of markets – an indication of the time it might take Pokémon GO to become globally available. 

Right now, the company is working on bolstering server capacity to handle the wider reach. 

Gamers use mobile phone cameras to search for items and characters in Pokémon GO that can appear in places ranging from restaurants, parking lots to obscure corners.

Pokémon GO has become one of the most talked about subjects on social media and people are pointing out the various ways in which it has touched their lives…for instance on how it has encouraged people to go out on walks. 

After Hanke's comments, Nintendo shares surged 10 percent and set a record in daily trading volume for an individual stock on the Tokyo bourse. 

The shares have climbed 86 percent in just over a week, adding $17 billion to market value of Nintendo. 

The game would soon be launched in Japan where people have been bitter because they feel Kyoto-based Nintendo should have launched first. 

As for South Korea, it would be launched there once the company had sorted out issues with Google's mapping functions are restricted due to security issues with North Korea.

Hanke said Niantic, which was spun off from Google last year, is working on the mapping issue. "There are solutions to that."

South Korea is the world's fourth-biggest gaming market after China, the United States and Japan, according to Amsterdam-based research firm Newzoo.

But he was tight-lipped about prospects for a launch in China, saying only that there are regulations that have to be considered.

Hanke said the company is also considering to introduce a sponsorship scheme to make some money.

Its other game Ingress already has designated sponsors' stores and vending machines as spots in the game.

Sponsors would pay per customer visit because it brings more people to their businesses. 

Niantic currently has eight corporate sponsors for Ingress globally, including SoftBank Group, and the number is likely to be similar for Pokémon GO, Hanke said.

The game would also feature in-app purchases.

TRTWorld, Reuters