Pokemon Go fever spurs McDonald's Japan to seek tie-up

McDonald’s Japanese business said it is working with the developers of Pokemon Go as they bring the hit Nintendo game to the country.

McDonald’s Holdings, the fast-food giant’s affiliate in Japan, expects to start collaborating with Pokemon Go soon, it said. Developers are working intensely on the Japanese version of the game so that it runs smoothly, the company said.

Pokemon Go, which spurs players to venture into the real world and “catch” creatures on their phones, has sparked a worldwide frenzy. But it is still not available in Japan, where the original Pokemon cartoon series was first created.

The game is seen as a boon for retailers and restaurants because they can use it to attract customers to brick-and-mortar establishments. Shares of McDonald’s Japan are up 16 per cent this week, lifted by speculation that the chain would be involved in the release of Pokemon.

Already, McDonald’s Japan has been featuring figurines based on Pokemon characters such as Pikachu in its Happy Meals.

However, Japanese fans eagerly awaiting the launch of Pokemon Go faced another day of disappointment Wednesday.

Tech media reports that the augmented-reality game would finally be released in Japan, two weeks after its launch in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, turned out to be incorrect. That left gamers in Akihabara, Tokyo’s centre for all things tech, still pining to start catching Pokemon in their neighborhoods.

“I don’t want to miss the wave,” said the 11th grade student Mayo Uesugi.

Souta Horime, 16, expressed impatience. “There are people who have achieved a high score abroad, so I hope it gets released in Japan soon,” he said.

Pokemon Go is available in more than 20 countries, mostly in Europe and North America. It’s not clear why it has yet to debut in most of Asia.

Serkan Toto, a games industry consultant in Tokyo, said Pokemon itself may be Japanese in origin, but Pokemon Go is an American-developed game with a Japanese character or characters layered on it. He also pointed out reports that the release may be delayed because of fears of server outages, which have disrupted the game elsewhere.

“Nowhere in the world are the mobile gamers, the end consumers, as critical as in Japan. In the US, people are accustomed to slow networks, to server outages,” he said.

Motomasa Takahashi, 21, said he is fascinated with the game and unhappy that it has been already released in other countries but not Japan, even though it is the birthplace of Pokemon.

He added that he would be careful playing the game, after seeing reports of accidents related to Pokemon Go. A driver who crashed into another car in Fall City, Washington in the United States, reportedly told authorities he was distracted by the game. In Britain, three people had to be resuced from a cave in Wiltshire, England, last week, after they got lost looking for charecters underground.

Naoki Sakuraba, 21, saw a silver lining in the delay in Japan. He is anticipating that Japanese fans will get an improved version of the game as technological glitches reported in other countries are repaired.

Meanwhile, the smash-hit game has caused ructions elswhere in East Asia.

Indonesian officials have banned the playing of Pokemon Go from the presidential palace.

Hastily printed warnings that say “Playing or hunting Pokemon prohibited in the palace area” were put up around the palace complex in Jakarta on Wednesday.

“This is the office of the president, not a playground,” said Bey Machmuddin, the chief of the palace’s press bureau.

Last week, the cabinet secretary Pramono Agung said he had captured a number of Pokemon at the palace. But some officials have expressed worry the game could be a security risk.

Police have been banned from playing the game while on duty, and local media reported that the defence minister Ryamizard Ryacudu had warned that the game might be used by foreign countries to detect sensitive information.

Pokemon Go, which uses Google Maps and a smartphone to overlay reality with Pokemon creatures, has been a blockbuster hit in the US and other countries where it is available. It has not been officially released in Indonesia but is already popular there.

On Monday, Indonesian police briefly detained a Frenchman after he trespassed on a military base in a West Java town while hunting for Pokemon creatures.


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