"Pokemon Go" is a fully fledged phenomenon now.
Thousands, perhaps millions, of players are congregating in parks and walking the streets with their noses buried even further in their smartphones trying to catch all the Pokemon.
That has been great news for Nintendo shares — which have soared 50 percent in the past week. But analysts caution that the game's immense popularity may not have as big an impact on the company's earnings as some investors might be expecting.
"It isn't a money maker [for Nintendo]," says Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research.
SuperData puts the game's revenue at $14 million in its first four days. Apple and Google automatically get a cut of that — usually around 30 percent. And the remaining money goes to The Pokemon Company and Niantic, the developer of the game.
Nintendo owns an undefined stake in Niantic and 32.8 percent of The Pokemon Company, says van Dreunen. If a commensurate amount of those revenues go to Nintendo, it works out to between $3 million to $4 million, he says.
"For a multibillion dollar company, that's a drop in the bucket," he says.
Of course, those are early day numbers — and "Pokemon Go" hasn't yet launched in many countries. It just debuted in Germany today. And Japan, the nation that made Pokemon a global phenomenon, is still on deck — a launch that is likely to be on par, or bigger than, what we've seen in the U.S. (Japan's smartphone game market is valued at $9 billion, according to video game magazine Famitsu.)
And Billy Pidgeon, an independent analyst who focuses on the video game sector, says there are potential financial benefits beyond the game itself.
"There's money there, but whether it's hard or soft money remains to be seen," he says. "Soft money-wise it's a big hit, far beyond expectations. It does a lot for them, because people's perception was Nintendo doesn't 'get' mobile and that has changed because of this. That's promising for the future, considering they have new games coming out, and very promising for the license."
The key to "Pokemon Go" being a consistent generator of any sort of cash, of course, is the game has to sustain the enthusiasm that has enveloped it, with the most fickle of audiences: the mobile gamer.
No one believes that the current levels of hysteria will last long term. And the game's insistence that players actually get out and explore the real world to play could work against it as seasons change.
"Let's see how popular it is when it starts raining and fall comes around," says van Dreunen. "Will people still be walking around in the snow chasing Pokemon? ... Just like every other mobile game, it will have to face the retention figures after 7, 30 and 90 days. Chances are we are looking at the mobile games' equivalent of a summer hit song rather than a revolution in the mobile game monarchy."
To avoid that, The Pokemon Company and Niantic will need to quickly evolve "Pokemon Go," organizing tournaments and adding new features, says Pidgeon. That will not only lure new players, it will keep the existing ones engaged.
"There's a lot more to be exploited there, and they can keep it fun and engaging, and bring in new people while continuing to satisfy the people who have been playing for a while," he says. "Could it burn out? It could, but I don't think it will."