120,000 Pokemon Players Push Game to Next Level

Image: "Twitch Plays Pokemon"
"Twitch Plays Pokemon" is so popular, the site suffered an "enormous (and unforeseen) stress" and Twitch had to move the game to a dedicated server.via Twitch.tv

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More than 26 million Internet users have tuned in to either watch or play a massively multiplayer version of Nintendo’s 1996 game, “Pokemon Red,” since its Feb. 12 launch on Twitch, a streaming video game site.

With as many as 120,000 players concurrently inputting commands, “Twitch Plays Pokemon” is so successful that the creator now says he’ll build a version of Nintendo’s second-generation game, “Pokemon Blue” — that is, if the legions of current players can beat the first game.

“I've had lots of requests,” to build a sequel, said the game’s creator, who asks the media not to publish his name. A programmer who lives in Australia, he says he’d like to create the second version so more players can get in from the beginning.

“When ‘Pokemon Red’ was started, the stream had very few viewers,” he told NBC News. “The vast majority (if not all) of the current viewers have yet to see the start of a ‘Twitch Plays Pokemon’ journey.”

Players who joined the game “mid-journey” are so numerous, the site suffered an "enormous (and unforeseen) stress" and Twitch had to move the game to a dedicated server. What’s more, the chaos makes beating the game is easier said than done. Players punch commands into the game via the Twitch commenting system, which crunches the data on all of the inputs and decides what the character does next.

Technical finesse aside, what's fascinating about "Twitch Plays Pokémon" is that it manages to work at all. Anyone who's wrestled over a controller with a friend or sibling understands just how frustrating it can be trying to play a single-player game with two people, let alone 120,000. But for many "Twitch Plays Pokémon" the organized chaos of the whole thing is what gives it its charm.