"Okay, it's 1 AM in Seattle, and I saw no fewer than 12 other people roaming the downtown Seattle streets looking for Pokémon" Tweeted by Talarian 7th July 2016.
I’ve never been a big Pokémon fan. My exposure to the franchise was mainly through my son who was obsessed with it during the late nineties. Over the years I’ve played a few of the games on handheld devices and like so many other Nintendo products found them to be engaging and polished. In recent times I’ve watched with both sadness and fascination as Nintendo’s fortunes have waned, both within the console and handheld markets. For a company with so many good products and customer goodwill, they certainly seem to make a lot of poor business decisions. So when they finally announced a year ago that they would enter the mobile game market my interest was piqued.
One year on we now have Pokémon GO, a game that despite much publicity somehow managed to stay off my radar until Wednesday when my twitter timeline became filled with curious tweets such as that at the top of this post. Naturally I did some investigating and decided that this augmented reality game sounded like a lot of fun and I should join in. However Pokémon GO has not been officially released in the UK. For the present the game is only available in the US, Australia and New Zealand. However I see no reason why the regional marketing policy of Nintendo should stand in the way of me and casual gaming, so I found a third party website that hosted the appropriate APK file and installed the game manually.
So the first thing I noticed about Pokémon GO is that there aren’t any instructions with the game, or at least not with the version I installed. So I had to figure the basic mechanics of the game out for myself. It took me a while to work out how to throw the Poké Ball and capture the various beasties. It would also seem that some of the features of the game won’t load or have details missing. For example there is a Pokéstop at the end of my road but when I get there it doesn’t show anything other than the base template. It should also be noted that I haven’t yet encountered anyone else who plays the game. This aspect of Pokémon GO has the potential to be both great fun and problematic. Interfacing with other carbon based lifeforms is so often fraught with risk these days. How long will it be before we hear of the first Pokémon GO related assault or murder.
But enough of these moral conundrums and societal concerns; one of the biggest issues that comes with the launch of a new game is picking a cool name. The best ones go very quickly. I won’t burden you with the tortuous events and factors that lead to my current screen name but needless to say Uncle Trumpet was not my first choice. Furthermore, beyond a few circuits of my local streets, I’ve done precious little than capture a few low level Pokémon. Again, possibly due to the version I’ve installed there doesn’t seem to be a way to cleanly close the game. It may be prudent to re-install the game client once an official version becomes available in the UK.
From what I’ve experienced myself (which is somewhat limited) and read on other people’s blogs, it looks like Pokémon GO is proving to be a major shot in the arm for Nintendo. The game includes a ubiquitous cash store and shares in the company have risen over the last 24 hours. If I can convince my son to install the game then I think I should be able to get a much better handle on what Pokémon GO can offer. It must admit what I’ve seen so far is fun and I really like the way the game links to your location. If this provides an incentive for people who are usually housebound to venture outside, then so much the better. Mind you I wouldn’t be surprised to read of someone being run over while playing Pokémon GO; as if smart phones weren’t absorbing enough already.