TOKYO (AP) — The wait is over for “Pokemon Go” fans in Japan.
Players began tweeting as soon as it was available Friday morning, and the Pokemon Co. and the developer of the augmented reality game, U.S.-based Niantic Inc., confirmed its launch.
“Pokemon Go” is expected to be a huge hit in Japan, the country of the character’s birth. Fans have been eagerly awaiting its release since it first came out more than two weeks ago in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, and then spread to become a blockbuster hit in more than 20 countries.
One of the Japanese creators of the game apologized for the delay in a video with the American head of Niantic posted on the internet.
“To everyone in Japan: I am sorry to make you wait for so long,” said Jyunichi Masuda, the head of development at Game Freak Inc., the developer of the original Pokemon game. “‘Pokemon Go’ can now be played in Japan.”
The launch in Japan includes a tie-up with McDonald’s Japan that is seen as a potential expansion of the game’s revenue base beyond the sale of in-app purchases. Financial details have not been disclosed, but McDonald’s said that about 400 of its 2,900 restaurants in the country are designated as “gyms” where players can battle on their smartphones.
Because the game uses GPS, it can drive potential customers to a store in a way that other games cannot. “They are adding a new way to make money through mobile games by virtue of the GPS element in the game, and I think this deal is just the first of many to come,” said Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based games industry consultant.
Niantic CEO John Hanke asked users to play with care. Elsewhere, there have been multiple reports of car accidents and other mishaps because people were preoccupied with playing the game. As anticipation built toward the Japan release, the government issued nine safety-related rules Wednesday for “Pokemon Go” players to follow.
“When you go out to play, keep your head up, look around, enjoy the world around you and be safe,” he said in the video message.