It was a story that gripped the nation for weeks. Unexpected twists and turns meant no one was sure what would happen next. But yesterday, after what seemed like an inordinately long wait, Britons were rewarded for their patience. No, it was nothing to do with Theresa May: Pokemon Go finally launched in the UK.
The game, which has already become a sensation in the US and Australia, uses augmented reality, putting Pokemon in real-world sites: to level up, players explore the streets of the capital, lobbing Pokeballs at Jigglypuffs and Pikachus.
But alas. Its launch in the UK prompted the usual round of party pooping – with worried commuters taking screenshots of Pokeballs lying on the tracks at Tube stations, while health and safety enthusiasts pointed out some people had tripped over playing the game. Some bookies are offering odds on which UK city will be the first to ban the game.
Chief among the naysayers was the Association of British Insurers, which hastily issued a release of “No Go’s” (see what they did there?). Pointers included “don’t drive and play”, “be aware of your surroundings” and “be alert to those around you”.
Well, duh. The game itself includes a warning to that effect, saying “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings”. It also can’t be used by anyone moving at high speed (ie. driving).
Can’t we, for once, celebrate the success of something like this? London prides itself on its ability to innovate, but each time a disruptive technology is introduced, it prompts the same hand-wringers to make their views known. Take Uber, the debate surrounding which became so violent, Transport for London had to become involved (for those wondering, a TfL spokesman told City A.M. it has no plans to issue travel guidelines to Pokemon Go players).
Is it any wonder King, the developer behind Candy Crush, the game unseated by Pokemon Go at the top of the US download charts, chose to IPO in New York?
Although the capital has embraced innovations such as fintech and cryptocurrencies, it can do better. Only when it no longer feels the need to issue warnings about fairly innocuous pieces of technology can we attract top tech firms from rival tech centres such as San Francisco. And you know what they say: you gotta catch ‘em all.