Players in 26 countries took advantage of mostly good weather to venture outdoors to hunt and capture their first Pokémon creatures, with millions having downloaded the game in its first days since release.
The app, developed by Niantic and part-owned by Nintendo, calls on users to move around the real world, overlaying their normal landscape with an augmented reality that projects digital creatures on to the streets around them.
Confirming users’ difficulty accessing the game, Niantic said on its website: “Due to the incredible number of Pokémon GO downloads, some Trainers are experiencing server connectivity issues. Don’t worry, our team is on it!”
Meanwhile, a hacking group called PoodleCorp claimed responsibility for the servers being down, according to Reddit.
The problems in Europe follow the US launch of the game on 6 July, which caused servers to crash due to overwhelming demand. The game launched in the UK on Thursday.
In illustration of the continuing mania over the game, the appearance of a super-rare Vaporeon in New York City caused players to swarm to Central Park. The crazed scene was captured on video and posted to Twitter on Friday, causing one appalled used to write: “I honestly am wondering if we’re on the verge of a global breakdown.”
Users posted on social media to complain that the augmented-reality game was regularly freezing.
The server meltdown follows a series of robberies related to Pokémon Go. Three students in Manchester have been robbed at knifepoint of their mobile phones while playing the game.
Pokémon Go had recovered from its 6 July US launch after many users were unable to sign in or populate their maps. But 10 days later, the phenomenon has been a victim of its own success, as gamers hooked on the addictive game have gone into withdrawal.
Players were reporting late on Saturday night that the game was operating normally again.
In the UK, the players were targeted in Hulme, Manchester, on Friday night just hours after Greater Manchester Police (GMP) warned of the dangers of using the phone app.
The force had said it was concerned that the app could provide another online avenue for criminals to exploit. Its advice to users included paying attention to their surroundings, especially in built-up areas.
GMP City Centre tweeted: “GMP warning on Pokemon Go risks soon confirmed as 3 students robbed of phones in Hulme last night chasing Pokemon.” The robberies took place in Hulme Park at about 8pm, added police.
Det Supt Joanne Rawlinson said: “We know that criminals move quickly to exploit the latest developments to target victims and Pokemon Go will already be in their sights.
“There have already been incidents in America where young people are thought to have been targeted through the app. I would urge parents to speak to their children about the app and the best ways to make sure they stay safe. Talking to your child is one of the best ways to keep them safe.”
On Saturday night, reports emerged from Connecticut, in the United States, of two young men hunting Pokemon who stumbled across a naked woman engaged in vandalism.
The game had led the men to the prayer garden of St Luke’s Church, a Roman Catholic church in Westport, on Wednesday, but instead of a Squirtle, they found a nude woman who was vandalising the property. Police said the woman had pulled lights from the ground, overturned a statue and benches, and was throwing rubbish from her car into a baptismal pond.
The men called the police and the woman, a 40-year-old Bridgeport resident, was taken to a local hospital for observation. She was not arrested. Church officials say the damage to the garden can be repaired.
This article was written by Guardian staff, for theguardian.com on Saturday 16th July 2016 21.33 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010