Pokémon Go finally launches in Japan

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Children, teens and young adults in Japan are excited to finally get their hands on the smash hit mobile game.
Children, teens and young adults in Japan are excited to finally get their hands on the smash hit mobile game.

After much anticipation and one false start, Pokémon Go finally launched in Japan today, bringing the record-setting global hit to the home of the Pokémon characters.

After several days of rumours that the launch was imminent, Japan ? one of the world's biggest gaming markets ? joined the United States, Canada, Australia and more than 30 countries in Europe in playing the augmented reality mobile game by Niantic in which players interact with virtual characters in the real world.

The unexpected hit has doubled Nintendo's value since its US launch earlier this month, despite the veteran gaming console company not directly owning the game.

Junichi Masuda, head of development at Game Freak, and co-creator of the game, apologised in an online video announcement for keeping players waiting so long in the land where Pokémon was first born two decades ago.

"From today you can go out and find Pokémon to your heart's content," he said.

"We hope the game enables users to see the world in a new, fulfilling way. Obey the rules and have fun."

Initial attempts to download the game took some time, but before long the game was in full swing.

"This game is just as I imagined it to be; it's really fun," said Toshinori Ishibashi, 18, who was seen playing the game near a Pokémon goods store in Tokyo Station.

"It's also a great reason to go outside, so I'm really enjoying it."

The game was developed by Niantic and published by The Pokémon Company. Nintendo owns a third of The Pokémon Company, and both have undisclosed stakes in Niantic.

McDonald's Japan teamed up for the launch and said its nearly 3 000 outlets across Japan would serve as gyms - where players can convene to battle their Pokémon - although it noted that "ultimately, McDonald's is a restaurant [and] we will call on players not to become a bother to customers who are eating".

The Japanese government on Thursday issued a safety warning, with the country's National Centre for Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity (NISC) giving nine instructions to users of the mobile game, ranging from advice about online privacy to warnings about heat stroke in the muggy Japanese summer.

Nintendo shares climbed more than 4% in Tokyo trading on Friday, while shares of McDonald's Japan surged 7.2%.

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