NINTEN-DO SOMETHING

Japanese servers are struggling to keep up with the onslaught of Pokemon Go

Pokémon Go, made available to Japanese players on Friday (July 22) morning, hit a rough patch after spreading like wildfire elsewhere in the world.

By Friday evening, as more than 10 million people downloaded the app in Japan, servers crashed and the game went off the grid. Both the game’s server as well as the Pokémon Trainer Club logins were down. (At the time of publishing, both were back up.) Users were quick to express their frustrations on social media and the Pokemon Go News Twitter account also addressed the crash.

Japan isn’t the first country to experience server overloads thanks to Pokémon Go. It repeatedly crashed or failed to load after its launch in the US, Australia, and New Zealand three weeks ago, and servers in North America were hacked. In Japan, there are no reports of foul play; the problem is likelier due to the sheer number of downloads.

The makers had always been weary of overloading servers in Japan, where they expected skyrocketing demand. They had been pushing the launch off for weeks. “At present, the server capacity in Japan is not powerful enough. We are working hard with our partners in Japan to enable the servers to keep up with demand once the game goes online there. We expect it to be released by the end of July,” game creator and Niantic Labs CEO John Hanke told Forbes last week.

All the wannabe Satoshis (the Japanese version of the game’s main character, Ash Ketchums) were buzzing with excitement when a rumored launch date of July 20 started making the rounds. However, on July 19, news of the launch being postponed sent Nintendo’s stock plummeting for the first time in 10 days. Reports that low-capacity Japanese servers would delay the game’s launch raised questions about the longterm valuation of Pokémon parent company Nintendo.

Even so, the game racked up over 30 million downloads worldwide and $35 million in global revenue, by selling Pokécoins that enable in-app purchases of Pokéballs and more, event before its Japan launch. Shares in Nintendo gained steam and ticked up 7% on Friday to 28,220 yen ($265) as Pokemon Go became the country’s most downloaded app. The game’s Japanese sponsor McDonalds has also seen a 30% surge in its shares, the Financial Times reported. As long as the game is up and running in arguably its most important market, the rally is not likely see-saw further.

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