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Pokemon Go craze finally hits Japan

Pokemon

TOKYO, JAPAN: Pikachu was welcomed home by thousands of enthusiastic Japanese gamers Friday as the global phenomenon that is Pokemon Go finally launched in its native market.

The smartphone app has now been launched in more than 40 countries, including the United States (US) and much of Europe, but Japan – where Nintendo started the mythical creature franchise 20 years ago – was kept waiting.

The suspense lasted for days, as international media reports about a timeline for the Japan rollout kept changing, and Nintendo, the Pokemon Company, and the game’s US-based developer Niantic all declined to comment.

But that finally ended Friday as the game was made available online in Japan.

“We are truly happy that we have been able to bring this to Japan, where Pokemon was born,” Niantic announced on its blog.

It attributed the delay in Japan to responses “beyond our expectations” after the game’s July 6 release.

User reaction was ecstatic.

“PokemonGO releeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaased,” tweeted @skri0709 minutes after it hit Google Play.

Another user said: “Pokemon Go came, I cannot bother with work.”

Since its global launch two weeks ago, Pokemon Go has sparked a worldwide frenzy among users who have taken to the streets with their smartphones.

The free app uses satellite locations, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settings, challenging players to capture and train the creatures for battles.

The game has given a shot in the arm to Nintendo’s nascent move into mobile gaming – after it abandoned a longstanding consoles only policy.

The videogame giant’s stock has more than doubled in the last couple of weeks with its market value soaring earlier this week to 4.5 trillion yen ($42.5 billion), making it just more valuable than Japan Inc standard bearer Sony.

Amid widespread anticipation before the official release, the government issued a rare safety guide warning over dangers gamers could face, from heat stroke to online scams.

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