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Nintendo’s Pokémon GO becomes App Store hit despite tumultuous launch

Over the last few days it’s been hard to avoid mention of the latest App Store craze, Pokémon GO. The game – an augmented reality take on Nintendo’s hit franchise – has quickly become incredibly popular, despite widespread technical problems and a series of pretty unusual events. If you’re waiting for the game to launch in your country, or have no idea what a Pokémon is and are feeling confused and alienated by the blanket news coverage, here’s a quick recap of what you might have missed so far.

What is Pokemon GO?

A new mobile game in which players are encouraged to explore the real world around them to find and capture a selection of iconic monsters from the popular Pokémon series, a best-selling franchise which has spanned video games, cartoon shows, trading cards and more over the last twenty years.

There are more than 100 types of Pokémon in the game, and they tend to “live” in different environments. So to catch ’em all you’ll need to head down to the beach, go for a woodland trek or take a stroll through town. The game map is based on real-world locations, and will buzz when you get close to a Pokémon’s hiding spot. The app then launches the phone camera with an augmented reality overlay showing the cartoon creatures running around in real life.

So I have to go outside to play?

Correct. On the one hand, it’s encouraging gamers to get plenty of exercise as they go Pokémon hunting, as certain monster eggs will only hatch after the phone’s pedometer clocks a certain distance. It’s a new reason for kids to play outside rather than sit on the couch all day, and it seems to be encouraging a large proportion of adults (primarily those who grew up with the first games in the 90s) to get some exercise.

On the other hand, there have already been a handful of less positive reactions to the game. Though the developers have been very keen to avoid controversy, ensuring Pokémon won’t hang out in the middle of the road or on private property, inevitably an app that forces you outside will cause a few problems. A group of armed muggers have already used the game to target victims, while a girl in Wyoming stumbled across a dead body while playing and a man’s home in Massachusetts was mistakenly marked as a Poké Stop.

Why can’t I find it on the App Store?

Unfortunately the game hasn’t released worldwide just yet. The US, Australia and New Zealand got the game late last week, but the unexpected popularity has caused a lot of strain on the game servers and players are experiencing crashes and difficulty signing up. For this reason, the game has yet to launch in other regions and there’s no set release date for Europe, or anywhere else for that matter.

If you live in a part of the world where the game hasn’t yet released, it’s technically possible to get hold of it anyway by fiddling with your region settings and registering for a dummy Apple ID. The developers don’t encourage it, but if you just can’t wait to see what all the fuss is about you can follow these steps to grab the game early.

After the moderate success of Nintendo’s bizarre first game, Miitomo (read our review!) the insane initial launch of Pokémon GO has seen the company’s shares soar – despite the fact it was actually developed by Niantic, Inc. under the guidance of the Pokémon Company, and not by Nintendo at all. If you’re in a supported region, you can download the game for free and get hunting.