October 22, 2016 1:00 pm JST

'Pokemon Go' could evolve further

JOSHUA OGAWA, Nikkei staff writer

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Niantic's Tatsuo Nomura was still only nine years old when Nintendo released Pokemon in 1996. "Pokemon was a common language for our generation. My friends and I used to sing a Pokemon song at breaktime," said the 30-year-old engineer.

Nomura is now a senior product manager for the blockbuster smartphone game Pokemon Go, which has racked up more than 500 million downloads since its release in July.

Unlike his classmates, Nomura got interested in how the game worked. By the time he entered junior high, he was working as a paperboy to save up enough for the PC on which he taught himself programming.

After earning a master's degree in computer science at Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2011, Nomura joined Google as an engineer and was put in charge of Google Maps. He was headhunted by Niantic in 2015 after the success of "Google Maps: Pokemon Challenge," which he had developed as an April Fools' joke the year before.

Nomura said he had several sleepless nights before the release of "Pokemon Go." But user comments, such as "The game has increased communication with our children" or "the game has helped hospitalized kids undergo rehab," are "more encouraging than any figures," he said.

"Pokemon Go" has been released in more than 100 countries. Nomura is trying to make it a "simpler yet more profound game" with new and enhanced functions.

Nintendo Co., Ltd.

Japan

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