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‘Pokémon Go’ officially launches in Japan following delay

It’s official: Niantic Labs announced on Friday that Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game that’s sweeping the globe, has officially launched in Japan — the birthplace of the billion-dollar Pokémon franchise on which it’s based. Players in the region report that Pokémon Go has appeared in the Japanese Google Play Store on Android and the Apple App Store on iOS, and that its regional servers have gone live.

The debut follows an unforeseen day of delay. Pokémon Go was initially pegged to launch on Wednesday in the Land of the Rising Sun, but those plans were scrapped following the leak of an email between developer Niantic and launch partner McDonald’s.

The delay spurred a 13-percent drop in Nintendo’s share price, though the stock still sits at 85 percent above what it was just a few weeks ago.

Pokémon Go’s augmented-reality gameplay has taken the world by storm, attracting millions of players on both iOS and Android platforms. Gamers are selling accounts for cold, hard cash and even real estate agents are touting monster sightings to boost sales.

Related: Ready to become a ‘Pokémon Go’ master? Our ultimate tips guide

But until Friday, none of that was happening in Japan, because the game wasn’t available there yet. According to TechCrunch, the planned Wednesday launch was pushed back following the leak of an email on internet forums that confirmed McDonald’s involvement as a launch partner.

The subsequent hype that the impending launch generated is why Niantic felt the need to push it back. It feared that the servers wouldn’t be able to cope with the influx of new players.

Japan has traditionally had one of the strongest Pokémon audiences in the world, so it seems likely that fans will lap up Pokémon Go. With a population just shy of 130 million people, it’s quite a large market for Nintendo.

Digital Trends has reached out to Niantic and will update this piece when we hear back.

Related: 5 great location-based games that aren’t ‘Pokémon Go’

Pushing back the launch to trying and make sure there’s enough server capacity may have been a smart move. When Pokémon Go debuted in markets such as the U.S., fans were hit with repeated log-in problems, crashes, and outages as the servers struggled to cope with the massive influx of players. In just two weeks, more than 10 million people have logged on to Pokémon Go in the U.S. alone, so it seems likely that many millions will attempt to do the same.

The launch in Japan will also act as a prototype for future cooperation between companies. Nintendo has reportedly struck a deal with McDonald’s to turn many of its 3,000 outlets in the country into Pokémon Gyms, encouraging players to congregate there and potentially eat and drink while battling.

If that proves successful, expect that sort of collaboration to be replicated in many more countries and outlets around the world.

Article originally published on 07-20-2016. Updated on 07-21-2016 by Kyle Wiggers: Added news of Pokémon Go’s launch in Japan.

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