Pokemon Go still catches 'em all after 5 years

Nikkei -- Jul 23
TOKYO -- Five years after its launch, Pokemon Go monsters still run amok in the world and are chased by a legion of fans.

Among those on the monster hunt is an avid fan in his 40s who has played the game every single day.

"At first it was just about collecting Pokemon, but more ways to play have been added in, like [different types of] battles between Pokemon," said the man, who lives in a Tokyo suburb. He has caught more than 200,000 of the titular monsters.

"It's the same game, but I don't get tired of it," he said.

The game that marked its fifth anniversary in Japan on Thursday still has well over 3 million players there alone, a testament to staying power rarely seen in the mobile gaming world.

As an augmented reality game, Pokemon Go overlays virtual elements on the real world, with players visiting parks and landmarks to get Pokemon and items. Though the crowds that used to gather to snag rare creatures are no longer a common sight, that does not mean the game has lost its allure.

The game was developed by San Francisco-based developer Niantic in collaboration with Nintendo.

Pokemon Go had 3.6 million players in Japan as of June, according to Tokyo-based data analysis firm Values. This is a far cry from the 11 million players it had right after its launch, but still enough to make it the country's second-largest mobile game. Most games lose 70% to 80% of their initial player base within the first week.

The game "has leveraged the unique traits of its popular characters and provided more ways to play, creating a new category of location-based games," said Hirokazu Hamamura, former editor-in-chief of gaming magazine Famitsu.

By adding in the 800-plus monsters found in Nintendo's Pokemon series little by little, Pokemon Go has kept players motivated to complete their collections over the long term. And because the game can be enjoyed even without expensive microtransactions -- where gamers pay fees for upgrades -- it is accessible to a wide range of fans.

Quite a few players spend money on it, though. Pokemon Go raked in $1.4 billion from users worldwide in the year through June, according to Sensor Tower -- $300 million more than in its first year, and more than leading Japanese game developer Capcom's overall annual revenue. The five-year tally topped $5 billion.

- Nikkei