Nintendo Finally Invades Smartphone Market with Pokemon Go!
It was 20 years ago when a game called Pocket Monsters was introduced to the Japanese gaming market. Today, we know this as the worldwide franchise called Pokemon, an international pop phenomenon that defined the 90s. Pokemon has reached a global status after a huge success in the Western markets. From then on, a string of game versions, TV series, merchandise and movie sequels have kept the franchise quite active.
But it was not until the launch of Pokemon Go did the franchise reach a new all-time high, bringing back a craze that once made us all fall in love with it.
The craze that started it all
Pokemon was the brainchild of Satoshi Tajiri, an inspiration from his hobby of insect collecting. Nintendo picked up the first game series Pokemon Red and Green and released it on their Game Boy systems in 1996. In a span of a year, more than 3 million units were sold in Japan alone. By 1998, Pokemon landed in US territory for the first time. Critics were doubtful of its success but later on sold more than 200,000 copies of Pokemon Red and Blue on its debut release. By 1999, more than 4.2 million units were sold in the US alone
The craze spread internationally with the release of the Pokemon animated series, a Pokemon debut movie which raked in US$53 million in Japan; a trading card game made by makers of Magic: The Gathering, Wizards of the Coast; and not to mention the toys, apparel, and marketing that went along with it. Pokemon’s titanic success propelled it to Nintendo’s Hall of Fame as one of the most well-loved games next to the Super Mario Brothers, Zelda, and Donkey Kong.
Ready, Set, Pokemon Go!
Pokemon Go is classified as an augmented reality game, using real-world scenes and blending it with virtual reality objects. A collaborative project between Nintendo, Pokemon, and Niantic, the game allows users to capture the original 151 Pokemons in actual locations with the use of a smartphone.
Actually, Pokemon Go employs the geolocation feature of smartphones in playing the game. Using a map of the actual location of players, they can walk around their area to discover wild Pokemon and eventually catch them using Pokeballs on their smartphone screens. The idea of using geolocation in games first emerged in Niantic’s hit game Ingress, where players from two opposing teams tag various real world locations and landmarks as their portals. These virtual portals appear on the screen in a real map of where players are located.
A lot of the original elements in Pokemon Go still remains faithful to the original. In this case, players still get to pick one starter Pokemon: Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander, or (through some trick) Pikachu. Players can battle out their Pokemon in Pokestops or in Pokemon Gyms to level up the creatures until they get to evolve and become stronger. Players also get to level up and earn Pokepennies along the way to buy various items and accessories.
Nintendo invades the smartphone
The impact of Pokemon Go has been so phenomenal that Nintendo shares in the US leaped 10 percent, a peak reached in the past six years. The market value of Nintendo has already doubled since the release of Pokemon Go. In Japan, Nintendo’s stock prices also shot up to 86 percent, delivering an estimated US$15 billion to the company’s market value.
According to Seth Fischer, a Nintendo US shareholder, “Nintendo still has 4,000 patents for mobile gaming and multiplayer gaming among others. The company is already raking in US$290-570 million from licensing alone.”
But despite Nintendo’s move to release games on iOS and Android, Nintendo’s CEO still maintains the company’s primary strategy to invest in console games. “The move to smartphone games however does not push Nintendo away from console games,” CEO Satoru Iwata assured.
A Macquarie Research claims that Pokemon Go is slated to earn well beyond the US$4 billion mark, getting ahead of some of the smartphone’s best selling games Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. For now Pokemon Go is released in the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, and Europe. There is still no word when the game will hit Pokemon’s home country of Japan, as well as other countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.