Nintendo has finally launched Pokemon Go in Japan, the birthplace of the little virtual monsters.
Amid a flurry of social media excitement, Niantic Labs, the software company behind Pokemon Go, announced it was “finally broadcasting” in Japan.
First released in the US, Australia and New Zealand on July 6 and now available in more than 30 countries, Pokemon Go has been a global phenomenon.
The Japanese launch comes with a McDonald’s sponsorship deal.
McDonald’s restaurants were expected to be advertised as places where people were guaranteed to find Pokemon, or as “gyms” where players can train up their captured monsters for virtual fights.
However, a McDonald’s spokesman said restaurants would “call on players not to become a bother to customers who are eating”.
On July 22, excited Japanese fans began tweeting that they had been able to start playing.
After weeks of stories about people in other countries running into trouble playing Pokemon Go, Japanese authorities have taken precautions and issued a nine-point safety guide, in cartoon form.
The warnings, by the National Centre of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity, included asking users to register with “cool names that are different from real names” and cautioning them against heatstroke as they walk around in the sun.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on July 21: “I want people to abide by the warning so that people can play it on smartphones safely.”
Just a few hours after the launch, there were already reports of an accident.
A student at Osaka’s Kindai University reportedly fell down the stairs while playing Pokemon Go and was taking to hospital, said users on social media.
Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game on smartphones which has millions of people worldwide obsessively capturing small creatures in public spaces.
The game works by showing you a picture of your real surroundings as caught by the phone’s camera, then uses GPS to place virtual little monsters within that picture on your screen.
The mix of virtual and real worlds allows players to, for instance, fight a dragon circling Big Ben or chase a spaceship moving down their street.
Pokemons were first popular in the 1990s when they started on the Nintendo Game Boy. Back then, trading cards were a huge hit in school playgrounds and the new game manages to build on that legacy.