Nintendo’s New Mobile Pokemon Game is Winning Fans

Gamers seem to be falling in love with Nintendo's new Pokemon GO smartphone game, raising hopes that the company's long-awaited shift into mobile gaming will pay off.

Since its launch late Wednesday in the United States, the title has shot up to claim the No. 1 free app ranking in Apple's U.S. iTunes store. It was also launched in Australia and New Zealand this week and will soon be rolled out in Japan, other parts of Asia and Europe.

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The game, which has players walking around their neighborhoods in real life to search out and capture Pokemon characters on their smartphones, earned enthusiastic reviews by fans on Twitter despite some glitches.

TODAY Flashback: Gamers go nuts for Nintendo 1:37

"Ran into 4 people playing #PokemonGO on my 20 minute walk home this evening from work. I struck up a convo w/ one of them. Insane," tweeted a user with the handle ?@PezRadar.

Nintendo's shares jumped to end up 9 percent at their highest level in more than two months, giving the firm a market value of about $23 billion.

The news will be a welcome salve for Nintendo which for years resisted introducing mobile games with its best-known characters such as Super Mario Bros and Pokemon in an effort to protect its console business.

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Pokemon games have a deep fan base with the first title dating back to 1996. While free, Pokemon GO offers in-app purchases for power-ups and extra items.

Nintendo also stands to make money from its Pokemon Go Plus — an accessory that will alert players when they come close to Pokemon so that they don't always have to be looking at their phones. It will be released in late July and will be priced at $34.99 in the United States.

The company has promised four more smartphone games in the financial year to end-March and has said it expects mobile gaming to help boost annual operating profit by a third to 45 billion yen ($450 million). It also plans to release its next console globally in March.