It is understood the level of interest as the leak went viral caused the game’s makers to fear demand would be too high. An email containing confidential discussions between developer Niantic, the Pokémon Company and McDonald’s was posted on Japanese internet forums. The fast-food chain is expected to be the first paying sponsor of the location-based augmented reality game. McDonald’s 3,000 restaurants in Japan will be turned into Pokémon gyms, virtual battle arenas where players can take on other people’s Pokémon for control of an in-game tower, rewarded with in-game currency.
The fast-food restaurateur’s sponsorship of the game will provide the first revenue stream beyond in-app purchases for Pokémon Go and is expected to be the first of many commercial partnerships to roll out globally. The game requires players to be physically located in certain locations in the real world to play, and has seen South Koreans flock to a remote region where it is active, holocaust museums having to discourage players, atheists driven into churches, naive New Zealanders led to Hell’s Angels clubs and police stations filled with players.
McDonald’s will hope to see hundreds of players flock to its restaurants to do battle, but it is not the first to cash in on the popularity of the game. Restaurants and bars in New York, for instance, have taken to buying so-called lures that increase the number of Pokémon available for capture, driving player footfall to their doors.
Japanese players will now have to wait until at least Thursday to play the game, as developer Niantic prepares server capacity. The company has spent the time since Pokémon Go’s launch in Australia improving its server infrastructure. The company says it should be able to better handle the expected deluge of Japanese players after weeks of issues for Australian, US and European players, who have seen the game repeatedly taken offline.
The delay of the Japanese launch caused Nintendo’s share price, which had soared on the back of Pokémon Go’s popularity through its link to the Pokémon intellectual property as the sole publisher until now, to dip more than 10% in morning trading in Japan.
Meanwhile, the Pokémon Go craze has become so big that even Homer Simpson is playing it, despite barely being able to work a smartphone.
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