Days after its release, “Pokemon Go” has become a fast-moving phenomenon, drawing flash-mob-like crowds searching neighborhoods, parks and urban streets for imaginary characters on their smartphones.
The game, which trades on the nostalgia of the popular 1990s franchise and the thrill of exploring an augmented reality, is poised to surpass Twitter in daily active users on Android, according to data published by SimilarWeb, an information technology firm. And on the Google Play store, it’s ranked No. 1 above Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
The craze has sent Nintendo’s stock screaming upward, adding $7.5 billion to the company’s market value.
Users play the game by wandering neighborhoods and other public places, trying to discover geo-located Pokemon characters, which show up as if in the real world on their smartphone cameras. Players sometimes congregate at local landmarks to join teams and compete with one another.
But already the game has posed risks and warnings that users may be drawn into danger.
Armed robbers in Missouri used the app to lure victims to isolated locations where they could be robbed, said police. Others have been injured chasing the imaginary characters on their smartphones, without paying attention to their real-life surroundings.
In Washington state, Duvall police posted a warning on Facebook after players had been found “creeping around the Duvall PD… in the dark, popping out of bushes.”
“Just use common sense,” the post said, suggesting users “make sure your presence is well known. … And remember to be polite.”
The Darwin Police Station in Australia also discovered people trying to find Pokemon characters at their building and warned players to be safe.
“It’s also a good idea to look up, away from your phone and both ways before crossing the street. That Sandshrew isn’t going anywhere fast,” police said, referring to the rabbit-like Pokemon character.
Washington’s Department of Transportation warned against “Pokemoning” while driving. “No Pokemoning from behind the wheel,” the agency tweeted.
The game has led to some grisly discoveries as well. A quest to locate water-category Pokemon led a teen to discover a dead body in a river in Wyoming.
“I was walking towards the bridge along the shore when I saw something in the water,” 19-year-old Shayla Wiggins told KTVQ news. “I had to take a second look and I realized it was a body.”
She also admitted she probably never would have gone to that place if it weren’t for the game.
The “Pokemon Go” app is now installed on more Android phones than Tinder is and average users spend more than 43 minutes a day engaged with the app — that’s twice the amount of time users spend on Snapchat, SimilarWeb reported.
The game’s runaway success boosted Nintendo’s stock by nearly 25% on Monday, a sign that investors have renewed faith in the video game maker, which has in recent years struggled to produce a hit that comes close to matching the success of its 2006 console, the Nintendo Wii.
“There’s a conception that Nintendo missed the boat on mobile, because for years they refused to move their intellectual property to mobile,” said Matthew Diener, a senior analyst at game industry research firm EEDAR. “Now that they’ve moved their [intellectual property] to mobile in a smart and unique way. It shows they understand mobile, they understand how it works, and they’re able to create a unique experience has led to unprecedented success.”
In addition to its mobile breakthrough, the company also has a portfolio of intellectual property such as “Super Mario” and “Legend of Zelda” that commands nostalgia and brand loyalty, according to Dmitri Williams, president of Ninja Metrics, an advanced data science company that works in gaming and retail. The combination of hot intellectual property and a mobile strategy is likely fueling investor excitement, he said.