‘Pokémon GO’ — Central Park Frenzy, Accident Toll Mounts As Nintendo Shares Soar

The Pokémon GO accident toll is mounting, and crowds are stopping traffic in New York City to pursue rare Pokémon finds – while the mobile app craze is definitely taking the world by storm, observers wonder, will it last? Nintendo shareholders hope so, as the venerable Japanese company’s stock soars with the success of the smartphone game.

Pokémon GO Stops Manhattan Traffic

The Gothamist reports that hundreds of Pokémon GO players stampeded into Central Park when a rare Pokémon was spawned in the game’s version of the park. Traffic was held up, and there are reports that players actually left their cars running on the street while they chased down the elusive Pokémon. The Vaporeon is a rare find in the video game.

Pokémon Go Accident Toll

Mobbing a city park isn’t the only unintended consequence of the Pokémon GO sensation. The Pokémon GO app itself includes a caution to pay attention to your surroundings as you hunt for Pokémon in the real world, but the Nintendo game has proven so engrossing that many of its players are ignoring the warning. There are many reports of minor injuries such as sprained ankles and Pokémon GO players walking into trees and walls.

Just last week, NBC San Diego reported on the case of two men who actually walked off a cliff in Encinitas, California, while playing Pokémon GO. The Encinitas Fire Department found one man on the beach, having fallen more than 80 feet down the cliff. The other man was found unconscious approximately 50 feet down the cliff. According to reports, the pair climbed over a fence at the bluffs to find a Pokémon, ignoring the posted warnings. The Smoking Gun reports on an ex-Marine who was so distracted searching for Lapras, a blue sea Pokémon, that he drove into a tree in upstate New York.

According to CTV News in Montreal, police forces across Canada are taking the step of warning the public against the risks of playing games like Pokémon GO – even before the game was officially released in that country. Players figured out that it was possible to download the game by opening an American iTunes store account and have been hunting Pokémon across Canada already. In Quebec City, two police officers suffered minor injuries when a motorist distracted by playing Pokémon GO backed into their car in a parking lot.

Some police forces are using the hashtag #DontCatchAndDrive to help promote accident prevention, but in some areas, the potential dangers go beyond accidental injury. The BBC reports on a case in Florida where teenagers playing Pokémon GO in their car late at night were shot at by a homeowner who thought they were burglars. According to reports, he heard one of the pair ask, “Did you get anything?” and then went to confront the car. When the teenagers drove off, he fired at the vehicle. The incident was reported by the mother of one of the teens who noticed that one of the tires had been shot out and was flat. Apparently, the teenagers did not realize they’d been shot at.

The American Red Cross has produced a video with tips on how to stay safe while playing Pokémon GO.

Will Pokémon GO Save Nintendo?

The release of Pokémon GO has been a shot in the arm for Nintendo Corporation, the company that introduced the world to Pikachu, Charizard, and the other original Pokémon 21 years ago. As reported in the Telegraph, Pokémon GO was actually developed by Niantic Labs of San Francisco for Pokémon Company, of which Nintendo owns a 32 percent share.

In recent years, Nintendo stock has waned as gamers switched from the gaming consoles the company had built their reputation on to smartphone apps, and games like Angry Birds. The wild success of Pokémon GO – with 7.5 million downloads within its first weekend of release, a figure that doubled in the next two days – led to an immediate leap in Nintendo’s share price. It went from 17.5 yen to 27.7 within the first week of its release, nearly doubling from its original price to just under 34 yen two days later as the game app continued to roll out in different countries.

While the news for Nintendo shareholders is good so far, many wonder whether the gains are solid or whether Pokémon GO will be a flash in the pan as fickle gamers rush for the next craze to come along.

[Photo by Olivia Harris/Getty Images]