The GungHo Online Entertainment Inc. logo and website for the Puzzle & Dragons (PAD) smartphone game. (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

GungHo Soars as New Game Fuels Dreams of Pokemon Go-Like Hit

(Bloomberg) -- GungHo Online Entertainment Inc. jumped the most in six months after a new title from the maker of Puzzle & Dragons franchise stoked hopes for a Pokemon Go-like hit.

The stock rose 7.6 percent to close at 299 yen in Tokyo on Wednesday, the biggest jump since December. GungHo teamed up with developer Level-5 Inc. to create Yokai Watch World, the newest installment in the ghost-fighting game franchise. The new game uses the GPS location feature on smartphones to let players roam across Japan.

GungHo, whose 2012 Puzzle & Dragons was once the world’s highest-earning mobile game, has been in search of a new hit and is looking to tap into the popularity of Pokemon Go-style gameplay. Yokai Watch World uses Google Maps to create 3-D game environments based on real-world locations. The game is available in Japan on Android and iOS phones starting Wednesday.

The Japanese publisher saw its sales slump from the 173.1 billion yen ($1.6 billion) peak in 2014 as the puzzle-cum-strategy game failed to catch on abroad and popularity at home has waned. It released a location-based version called Puzzle & Dragons Radar in March 2016, but was overshadowed by Pokemon Go’s frenzy only four months later.

“We are putting that location-based experience from Puzzle & Dragons Radar to work here,” President Kazuki Morishita said in a briefing in Tokyo. “And we have the combination of Google’s advanced 3-D maps, a first time for something like that, and the appeal of Yokai Watch.”

GungHo spent a decade in relative obscurity as an operator of online computer games before the 2012 release of Puzzle & Dragons. The free-to-play title rocketed the company to the ranks of the world’s top three mobile developers and its stock to a record 1,550 yen in 2013.

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