Huge Pokemon Go Craze Brings Malware and Muggers, for Real
It's officially a craze, but Pokemon Go might be putting some players in harm's way. The new augmented reality (AR) game from Nintendo, based on the popular game and TV show from the 1990s, requires players to hunt for digital Pokemon on their smartphones.
The creatures are placed using GPS and an algorithm created by Niantic Labs, a San Francisco-based software developer spun off from Google. Unlike the original game, which was played on millions of Nintendo GameBoys, Pokemon Go calls for players to go outside and physically search for and catch their Pokemon quarries so they can train them. That has led to lots of fun for most players, but bad experiences for others.
Police in Omaha as well as in several Missouri cities have reported that Pokemon Go players have been robbed. The players in Missouri were robbed after visiting remote "Pokestops." The robbers allegedly used digital items called lures to make the Pokestops more appealing to Pokemon, as well as to the players who followed them. Four suspects in one of the Missouri cases were charged with armed robbery. Other players have reported bruised shins and even broken bones sustained when they were too absorbed in the game to pay close attention to their surroundings.
Cause for Alarm?
The pitfalls of the game have taken more subtle forms. Some players have found themselves in neighborhoods where they felt viewed with suspicion by residents. Others have had their devices infected with viruses after downloading the game from third parties. And a Wyoming player had the unnerving experience of finding a dead body as she was playing the game.
We asked Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, if the various downsides to playing Pokemon Go should be cause for alarm. He told us that the isolated incidents are probably just byproducts of a phenomenally popular new game.
"Pokemon Go has become a market phenomenon as big as Twitter in less than a week," said Moorhead. "It's impressive for sure and with that hyper-growth comes anything that combines AR with outdoor hyper-locality. An even bigger element here is we have a rabid base of gamers who will do just about anything to get ahead in the game and have fun."
Huge Boon for Nintendo
Despite the scattered dangers of Pokemon Go, the game has become a huge boon for Tokyo-based Nintendo, which is publicly owned. The company's stock price jumped by almost 25 percent this morning on the heels of last week's release of the mobile game.
Nintendo now has a market capitalization of nearly $28 billion, a $7.5 billion increase in a single day. Also today, the game was poised to pass Twitter in the number of daily users on the Android mobile operating system -- even as demand for the game caused Nintendo servers to crash.