Commentary

Folks Are Getting Out And Pokemon Go, Go Going

Nintendo, with the help of Google spin-off Niantic, has finally gotten out of the house and it is taking exercise-deprived gamers with it. Pokémon Go has zoomed to the top of the Android and  iTunes app stores charts and boosted Nintendo’s market cap by $9 billion — a jump of 53% — since its release July 6.

The augmented reality app has erstwhile couch potatoes wandering the streets of the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, looking to capture the “pocket monsters” that first popped up in Nintendo Game Boy systems in the mid-’90s. All the while, they’re looking for “gyms” where other AR conquistadors might be hanging out itching to do battle with them. They are generally, but not always, in public places such as, say, your local library.

“Pokémon Go represents one of those moments when a new technology — in this case, augmented reality or A.R., which fuses digital technology with the physical world — breaks through from a niche toy for early adopters to something much bigger. The idea behind the technology is to overlay digital imagery on a person’s view of the real world, using a smartphone screen or a headset,” write Nick Wingfield and Mike Isaac for the New York Times.

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“On July 8th, only 2 days after the app’s release, it was already installed on 5.16% of all Android devices in the U.S. If that doesn’t seem like much, consider that by Thursday, July 7th, Pokémon GO was already installed on more U.S. Android phones than Tinder,” writes Joseph Schwartz for SimilarWeb

“It’s not just on installs where Pokémon GO is killing it, on app engagement as well, the app’s usage has been unbelievably high. Over 60% of those who have downloaded the app in the US are using it daily,” Schwartz wrote Sunday, predicting that in a couple of days it would have more daily active users than Twitter. 

“The app, which is free to download and play, uses GPS to make a cartoony map of your neighborhood and basically anywhere you go. In this colorful, slightly Big-Brother-y version of reality, Pokémon are interspersed throughout, and when you come within range of a Pokémon you can ‘approach,’ them and they will show up on your phone,” writes CNN’s AJ Willingham in a piece titled “Everything You Wanted To Know About Pokémon GO But Were Afraid To Ask.” 

After that, there’s no telling what might ensue. Just ask Boon Sheridan, whose home in Holyoke, Mass., is a converted church that’s been designated as a gym. 

“By Sunday night, he told BuzzFeed News, about 50 people have walked or driven up to his house, lingering outside to play the game,” Sarah Begley writes for Time. Sheridan, who has downloaded the app himself, says, “I’d be cool with it if I could have some control over the hours.” 

Warning stories abound. 

“After Robberies And Injuries, How To Stay Safe While Playing Pokémon Go” reads the hed over Aidan Quigley’s piece for the Christian Science Monitor. “Four teens in O'Fallon, Mo., committed robberies after staking out locations they knew would attract players of the game, police told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,” Quigley writes, before culling some safety tips from various police departments and the developer itself. Don’t, for example, try to capture the little critters while skateboarding. 

Other stories tell us about dead bodies being discovered, ankles being twisted and traffic being disrupted. Or not.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, tells us “privacy advocates expressed concerns Monday some Pokémon Go players are giving Niantic access to a trove of personal data without realizing it.”

In a WSJ test, write Takashi Mochizuki and Sarah E. Needleman, “signing up for the service using an iPhone gave the game maker permission to access all data associated with the Google account, including email, calendar and contact information. That is more information than Pokémon Go really needs," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center tells them.

“We just think that from the user’s perspective the data that’s being collected should be associated with the service that’s being provided,” Rotenberg says.

Which, pale-faced, under-active byte-stained wretches everywhere are telling us, is that it’s finally getting us up and out and exercising.

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