TOKYO -- More than a week after "Pokemon Go" was released in Japan, the initial fervor over the augmented reality smartphone game is showing signs of abating. Now game industry analysts are trying to decide whether the game will prove a flash in the pan or an enduring hit.
"Pokemon Go" was developed jointly by Nintendo, U.S. video game startup Niantic, and Pokemon Co., which markets and licenses the Pokemon franchise. As in many other countries, the game took Japan by storm when it was released on July 22. That evening, so many people rushed to start playing the game that downloading it became temporarily difficult.
But while there are still throngs of people roaming the streets, smartphone in hand as they hunt virtual Pokemon characters, the game has already fallen from the top of the charts for app downloads.
As of Aug. 1, it had slipped to second place among most popular free apps on the Japan edition of Apple's App Store. It had dropped to fourth among top-grossing games for Apple devices, behind mixi's "Monster Strike," GungHo Online Entertainment's "Puzzle & Dragons" and "Fate/Grand Order," developed by Aniplex.
In the U.S., where "Pokemon Go" was released in early July, some players are saying they have already grown tired of it.
The stock market has reacted to the waning fever, sending Nintendo shares into a tailspin. The stock sank to 20,100 yen on Aug. 1, down nearly 40% from the 32,700 yen it logged on July 19.
Nintendo's decision to delay the launch of a "Pokemon Go" accessory from the end of July to September contributed to the stock's fall.
Keeping them enthralled
But a slight cooling off of a fever is not necessarily bad in the smartphone game industry, at least from the long-term perspective. A prolonged boom can eventually cause even ardent players who have bought numerous in-app items to lose interest in the game.
To stay popular, a game must regularly add new features, fix any problems and make other improvements.
The developers of "Pokemon Go" seem well-aware of this. An update released on July 31 fixes a display problem with the map and adds a feature that allows players to alter the appearances of their avatars. The update also removes the "battery saver" feature.
These changes suggest that the developers are still figuring out the best way to deal with glitches in the enormously popular game.
"Pokemon Go" has certainly captured the imagination of mobile game players around the world. The hard part will be to keep them hooked for the long term.