Biz Break: Pokemon Go augments reality for many

Top Of The Order:  

Aaaaaaaand, Go…: So, this is what happens when you go away to spend a week in your Seattle-area hometown, visit family and friends, and load up on Seahawks and Mariners gear. You come back to a new reality. An augmented one. One that comes with a warning:

“Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.”

That’s what you see on your smartphone when you begin the process of signing up to play Pokemon Go. I can honestly say that due to unplugging from most information sources for the better part of the last week, I had no idea that we had become trapped under the thumb of our new Pokemon overlords. But come Monday morning, my alert levels were on high and I was more aware of my surroundings than when I was staring at some brown bears at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Ore. last Saturday.

If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Go, then don’t worry. Chances are someone playing the game will soon walk into you when you’re out getting lunch. The concept of Pokemon Go is pretty simple:

  • You download the app on either your iPhone or Android smartphone.
  • You sign up.
  • You give the app access to your smartphone.
  • You start wandering around with your phone in front of your face as little Pokemon (or, is it Pokemen?) show up on your screen.
  • You then catch the Pokemon.

That’s pretty much it. Except it isn’t.

In less than a week, Pokemon Go has turned into a phenomenon and a boon for Nintendo, which owns one-third of Pokemon Company. You remember Nintendo, right? They came up with the Nintendo NES game system and the Nintendo Wii game console, among other things. Nintendo products have taken a backseat of late to the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox gaming devices. Nintendo and Pokemon each own a piece of Niantic Labs, the developer of Pokemon Go, which itself was spun off from Google last year.

It’s estimated that, already, more than 5 percent of Android smartphone owners have downloaded Pokemon Go, and the game is the most-downloaded free app on Apple’s App Store. (Pokemon Go is currently available in just the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, but it is soon to hit the smartphones of more countries around the world.) Nintendo stock, which trades on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, has surged 36 percent and added $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market value since Pokemon Go was released.

And as with any fad, there have to be those instances that show the weird or dark side on the phenomenon. Probably the most notable ones are two that, amazingly, don’t come from Florida. A woman in Wyoming who was tracking a Pokemon ended up discovering a dead body floating in a river, and there was the guy in Missouri who, while tracking a Pokemon to a convenience store, got held up at gunpoint by a group of robbers who were using the app to lie in wait for their own targets.

Who would have ever thought that people might need to pay more heed to the warning of a video game than they would to that “If you see something, say something” saying that gets tossed around just about every public transportation system and airport in the country? Well, it looks like we have hit that moment, and will continue to hit it as more people stick their smartphones up to their faces and go on the hunt for Pokemon in public.

Middle Innings:

Goo-Goo, Ga-Ga, GoPro: Well, the week couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for GoPro than if the action-sports camera maker actually had something to say.

GoPro shares surged more than 13 percent to close Monday at $12.43…Or, the stock’s highest closing price since the end of April. The juice came from an analyst report saying that GoPro’s next upgrade to its signature camera line, the Hero 5, will take place the same time the company releases its already much-delayed Karma drone camera. GoPro needs both products to do well this Christmas and holiday season if the company hopes to get back on track after months of falling sales and a plummeting stock price.

First DibsWhen it comes to the ride-hailing market, San Francisco-based Lyft often plays the second-banana role to its in-town rival Uber. Not trying to knock Lyft as a service, but it’s a fact. To “Uber” has become a verb, after all.

But Lyft drivers are about to jump to the front of the line to get General Motors’ upcoming electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt, when it becomes available next year. The deal is part of the Express Drive, short-term car rental program that is a partnership between Lyft and GM. The companies, which launched Express Drive in Chicago earlier this year, said the program will expand to San Francisco and Los Angeles this summer, and to Denver this fall.

Bottom Of The Lineup: 

Here’s a look at how some leading Silicon Valley stocks did Monday…

Movin’ On Up: In addition to GoPro, gains also came from Imperva, Aviat Networks, Barracuda Networks and QuinStreet.

In The Red: Decliners included Aemetis, Netflix, Zynga, Twitter and Synaptics.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.6 percent to 4,988.

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.4 percent to finish the day at 18,226.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index edged up by 0.3 percent to close at 2,137.

Quote Of The Day: “No Pokemoning from behind the wheel!” — The Washington state Department of Transportation on its Twitter feed.

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Photo: The game Pokemon Go is displayed on a cellphone in Los Angeles on Friday, July 8. (AP/Richard Vogel)

 

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