Pokémon Go: What is it and why is everyone talking about it?

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You might have noticed Pokémon cropping up in conversations a lot more than usual in the last week.

It’s all down to a new game, called Pokémon Go, that has begun to launch around the world over the last week, completely and utterly capturing the imagination of fans of the TV show and card collection game.

But what exactly is all the fuss about?

CATCH ‘EM ALL

While the card game dominated many a childhood, Pokémon Go has taken this idea of hunting, finding and collecting Pokémon (like Ash in the TV show) to an entirely new level.

The app uses a real world map and your location, enabling you to explore the real world in search of Pokémon, who are hiding everywhere. When you stumble upon one, they’ll appear on the map and a quick tap will enter you into the mini game to catch them.

Pokemon

This is where augmented reality comes into play, as the Pokémon in question will then appear in front of you (via your smartphone camera) and you must use Poke Balls in order to catch it.

Different Pokémon appear close to their natural habitat – water-type Pokémon stay close to rivers and oceans for example.

 

TO THE GYM & BEYOND

Pokemon Go

 

Beyond the exploration and catching of Pokémon, players can also head to “Gyms” where, as a member of one of three teams they can battle for control of the Gym and improve the powers of the various creatures in their Pokedex.

As well as these battle points, there are also PokeStops, usually tied to landmarks, monuments and other interesting places. These are where you can stock up on Poke Balls and other helpful items.

There are also “lures”. These are hotstops players can set up that lure nearby Pokémon to them for a 30 minute period. Crowds of people have already been spotted in various locations around the world taking advantage of such moments.

 

HOW STRONG HAS THE REACTION BEEN?

In a word: astonishing! Demand has been so high it has caused servers to crash. In a single day in the US, Pokémon Go managed to overtake Tinder in terms of app usage. Forbes reports that Android users have become obsessed with Pokémon Go. They used it for an average of 43 minutes last Friday, considerably longer than well established and popular apps including WhatsApp (30 minutes) and Instagram (25 minutes).

There are already anecdotes appearing on social media of players attempting to catch Pokémon “no matter what” – including one user who carried on playing after being pulled over by the police and another who was playing as his wife was in labour.

But there’s been a more serious side to proceedings too. Many businesses have started to put up signs warning players not to flood their premises. A police station in Darwin, Australia, also had to make a similar announcement while reminding users to look up from their phones when crossing the road.


A woman in the US also discovered a dead body while out hunting Pokémon, and there have been reports in the US of lures being set up by thieves who want to draw gamers to remote areas in order to rob them. One incident in Missouri saw four people arrested.

 

GO FOR IRELAND?


But despite the frenzy of excitement that surrounds the game, it is not yet officially available in Ireland – only the US, Australia and New Zealand are currently officially offering it on the App Store and Google Play.

That hasn’t stopped thousands of Irish players from being proactive in gaining access to Pokémon Go, though, with varying levels of risk. Those on iOS can download the app by switching the region of their App Store, while those on Android have been “sideloading” the app from unofficial stores.

The latter of these has presented issues for some, with reports of malware disguised as the app making their way onto smartphones and leaving personal data at risk.

While the official Irish launch is said to be “on hold” while developer Niantic looks to get control over their servers after demand crashed them on more than one occasion last week, expect it to be sooner rather than later that Go officially lands.