Monday, July 11, 2016

The Pokémon Go Phenomenon

Serenity Caldwell et al.:

Most people have at least heard of Pokémon — Nintendo’s ever-popular title — which asks players to travel a fictional world in order to collect every creature out there. But today’s world is not the world of the 1990s: Nintendo and Niantic Labs have teamed up to let players catch Pokémon in the very world we live in, thanks to a combination of GPS, augmented reality, and dorky-cute graphics.

A good introduction for people like me who have basically only heard about Pokémon—until this weekend—through Swift example code.

James Vincent (Hacker News):

Nintendo’s stock continues to skyrocket following the release of Pokémon Go. After an increase of 9.3 percent with the game’s launch last week, the company’s share price rose 24.52 percent on Monday to ¥20,260 ($193) — its highest one-day surge since 1983, adding $7.5 billion to the firm’s market value. The game has topped app download charts in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, and according to some market researchers, has already been installed on 5 percent of all Android smartphones in America.

Mitchel Broussard:

Because it requires players to travel to real-world destinations in order to stock up on Poké Balls, eggs, potions, and compete at gyms, some individuals have been capitalizing on the game’s mechanics to trap and rob its players. According to a Facebook post from the O’Fallon Police Department in Missouri, four people were arrested over the weekend after using a Lure Module at a PokéStop to draw in unsuspecting players and rob them at gunpoint.

Aaron Levie:

Nintendo’s mobile strategy:
2008: what’s an iPhone
2010: what’s an Android
2012: nope
2014: still no
2016: change how society functions

Although it sounds like Nintendo’s contribution was mostly the IP. The game was developed by Niantic, of Ingress fame.

Previously: Nintendo.

Update (2016-07-11): Adam Reeve (via David Chartier):

To play the game you need an account. Weirdly, Niantic won’t let you just create one - you need to sign in with an existing account from one of two services - the website or Google. Now the Pokemon site is for some reason not accepting new signups right now so if you’re not already registered there you’ll need to use a Google account - and that’s where the fun begins.


Let me be clear - Pokemon Go and Niantic can now:

  • Read all your email
  • Send email as you
  • Access all your Google drive documents (including deleting them)
  • Look at your search history and your Maps navigation history
  • Access any private photos you may store in Google Photos
  • And a whole lot more

What’s more, given the use of email as an authentication mechanism (think “Forgot password” links) they now have a pretty good chance of gaining access to your accounts on other sites too.

Update (2016-07-12): @SwiftOnSecurity:

When you give a company keys to your account, you’re giving your keys to their employees and anyone who hacks them. Not a question of trust.

Yan Zhu:

weird thing abt PokemonGo getting full goog account access is that iOS showed no permission dialog. goog should just revoke their app tokens

Adam Reeve has posted a FAQ.

Rosyna Keller:

I don’t understand… @NianticLabs fixed the Google scope bug in Ingress on April 19th but left it in Pokémon GO?!

William Turton:

But in a call with Gizmodo, Reeve backtracked his claims, saying he wasn’t “100 percent sure” his blog post was true. On the call, Reeve also admitted that he had never built an application that uses Google account permissions, and had never tested the claims he makes in the post.

Cybersecurity expert and CEO of Trail of Bits Dan Guido has also cast serious doubt on Reeve’s claim, saying Google tech support told him “full account access” does not mean a third party can read or send or send email, access your files or anything else Reeve claimed. It means Niantic can only read biographical information like email address and phone number.


A product security developer at Slack tested the token provided by Pokémon Go and found that it was never able to get data from services like Gmail or Calendar.

Nicole Lee:

Niantic Labs and The Pokémon Company issued a response to Engadget, confirming that it’s not actually reading your emails. Still, it has far more access than is necessary for the game and the company says that while it’s working on a fix for the client to only request the correct permission, Google will reduce Pokémon Go’s access on its end ‘soon.’

Update (2016-07-13): Lukas Mathis:

Much of the argument for Nintendo to create mobile games was based on the idea that Nintendo could not survive just selling its own consoles. I think it’s fair to say that the last few years have shown this to be false. Even with the Wii U being an abysmal failure, Nintendo is consistently profitable.


For Pokémon GO to achieve the same kinds of numbers, it will have to continue doing this well for quite a while.

That’s not to say that Pokémon GO can’t achieve those numbers - but how many of Nintendo’s other games will be lottery wins the size of Pokémon GO?


One final point: it feels a little bit disheartening to see the adulation Nintendo is currently getting for moving towards the same kind of manipulative, free-to-play, IAP-monetized games we get from tons of other rather questionable mobile gaming companies. It really took a very short amount of time for us to accept these games as the new normal.

Mitchel Broussard:

One week after it launched in the United States, Pokémon Go is now the biggest mobile game in the country’s history, in statistics focusing on the amount of daily active users (DAU) the app draws.

Update (2016-07-15): See also: Aeriform.

Update (2016-07-25): See also: Free-to-Play Dogs (via Accidental Tech Podcast).

Ben Lovejoy:

After Nintendo’s market-cap more than doubled following the launch of the game, investors seem to have belatedly realized that the company sees only indirect benefits from Go. Bloomberg reports that shares plunged 18% – the maximum allowed before trading is automatically halted by the Tokyo stock exchange – with a further drop looking likely when trading resumes.

Update (2016-07-28): Pokémon Free-to-Play Dogs (via Accidental Tech Podcast).

1 Comment RSS · Twitter

Just occurred to me today: even though people associate Pokémon GO with Nintendo, it's very possible that Apple makes more money on the game than Nintendo. Typically, these games do most of their business on iOS, not Android. Apple makes 30% of that.

Nintendo, meanwhile, owns 33% of The Pokémon Company, which owns the Pokémon IP, and outsourced it to Niantic. How much of that money flows back to Nintendo?

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