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Pokemon Go craze sends Nintendo stock soaring

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1999 Pikachu And Ash In The Animated Movie "Pokemon:The First Movie." (Photo By Getty Images)

HONG KONG — Nintendo shares have been on a tear since the Japanese company released its newest game, Pokemon Go, on Thursday.

The stock surged nearly 25% in Tokyo on Monday, after jumping 9% on Friday.

The new smartphone game has players exploring their real-life neighborhoods. It uses augmented reality — tapping your phone’s camera to superimpose cute, virtual creatures in the real world.

By Friday, it had already been downloaded more than a million times on Android and Apple devices.

The immediate success of Nintendo’s Pokemon Go could be the start of a wild turnaround for a company that has been struggling. Sales of its most recent game console, the Wii U, turned out to be a miserable flop, as it ran into fierce competition from rivals such as Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Nintendo’s earnings took a huge hit as a result — net income tanked around 60% in the most recent fiscal year. Before Friday’s bounce, the company’s stock had lost nearly 50% of its value over the last 12 months.

With profits and sales slumping, Nintendo has been working on a new strategy. The company has announced plans for a new game console set to launch early next year, codenamed “NX,” but has yet to provide details.

It even released a video game for phones called “Miitomo” in March, breaking with decades of precedent in which Nintendo only released games and characters on its own consoles. The company is also considering making movies with some of its popular game characters.

Earlier this year, Nintendo sold its majority stake in baseball team Seattle Mariners in order to free up some cash. The company had owned a controlling stake in the team for 24 years, but is now a minority owner retaining just 10% of its previous stake.