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‘Pokemon Go’ off to successful first week in Korea

Niantic’s hit AR mobile game secures 7 million local users since its official launch

By Sohn Ji-young

Published : Jan. 30, 2017 - 15:16

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The hit augmented reality mobile game “Pokemon Go” enjoyed a successful first week in South Korea, overstepping the sub-zero temperatures and initial worries that the game had lost steam due to its belated launch here.

The app has secured around 6.98 million users and 7.58 downloads in Korea as of Monday, according to data compiled by local mobile app marketing intelligence firm WiseApp. The game was released here on Jan. 24.
 
(Niantic) (Niantic)

The figures include only Android-based smartphone users and not Apple iPhone users, WiseApp said. In Korea, however, an estimated 90 percent of local smartphone users own Android devices.

Buoyed by its growing user pool, “Pokemon Go” has scored a fair share of in-app sales in Korea as well. The app now ranks No. 2 in game item sales on the Google Play app store, trailing behind Netmarble Games’ role playing game “Lineage II: Revolution.”

“Pokemon Go,” jointly developed by US-based Niantic Inc. and Nintendo, was released here six months after its global launch in major gaming markets including the US.

The GPS-based mobile game involves users walking to real-life locations marked on a map to capture virtual “Pokemon” characters via their smartphones. It uses augmented reality, which overlays (or augments) digital images with a person’s view of the real world through a phone’s camera.

Despite its worldwide popularity, the game did not arrive in Korea earlier as Google Maps — which “Pokemon Go” reportedly relies on — was restricted in the country on security grounds. Niantic explained that it used “publicly accessible data sources” to build its map system.

(Lim Jeong-yo/The Korea Herald) (Lim Jeong-yo/The Korea Herald)

Industry watchers had speculated that the game would struggle to gain traction in Korea because of its belated introduction and harsh winter temperatures.

However, it appears to be off to a successful start, as many Koreans have taken up the game over the Lunar New Year holiday weekend.

It remains to be seen how long “Pokemon Go” will be able to retain its high number of daily active users as the initial excitement surrounding the game dies down. In other markets, such as the US, many users were seen leaving the game one or two months after its release.

Looking ahead, Niantic is preparing a number of updates and new features for the game in 2017, the company’s visual and interaction design director Dennis Hwang said during a press conference in Seoul last week.

“The year 2017 will become an interesting year for ‘Pokemon Go.’ What’s been introduced so far is only the beginning. We plan to add new features, gameplay modes and contents to expand the ‘Pokemon Go’ universe,” he said.

The US game developer is also reviewing plans work with local corporate partners to designate certain locations or stores as “gyms,” where players can battle one another, or as “Pokestops” for picking up game items, Hwang said.

By Sohn Ji-young (jys@heraldcorp.com)