From handheld games to android phones, you’ll find people playing and connecting over Pokémon. It has been that way for 20 years.
The successful role-playing game about capturing monsters to use in battle has gone on to become a $46 million franchise. The success of Pokémon can be attributed to good marketing, strong game design, and the existence of the Pokémon anime.
“Most people didn’t know about it [Pokémon] until they saw the TV show, then they went out and bought a Game Boy,” said Becca LeClerc, the assistant manager at EB Games, Whitby North.
For their 20th anniversary, the Pokémon Company has gone full force in marketing to old and younger fans. From branching off into new games, airing new seasons of the anime, and making new plushies and trading cards, there seems to be something for everyone.
“It’s not just a handheld RPG (role playing game),” said LeClerc. “It can be a fighting game, it can be a photography game, it can be many things not just associated to Pokémon.”
On Nov. 18, the next main series games, Pokémon Sun and Moon, will be available for purchase. Fans were able to get a taste of the new games through a demo released on Oct 18. These games will be bringing several changes to the formula, including getting rid of the long running gym-systems that serve as the game’s boss battles.
“It breathes a bit of fresh air into the franchise,” said LeClerc.
Though the games have only begun to branch outside of their traditional RPG formula, 2016 has seen the franchise experiment with a variety of games outside of handheld.
“I think that one of the best things about Pokémon is its ability to expand,” said John Goodwin, a professor and program coordinator of video game development at Durham College. “Pokémon Go was immensely successful, even though it wasn’t made by Nintendo or the Pokémon company.”
Released in July, Pokémon Go is a game for Androids and IPhones developed by Niantic that allow players to catch Pokémon while walking utilizing augmented reality (AR).
“There’s something insidiously cool to take Pokémon and use it to introduce players to AR,” said Goodwin. “Pokémon Go brought attention to the franchise. It did exactly what Nintendo needed it to do.”
Alongside Pokémon Go, the Pokémon company also released Pokken Tournament in July. The game, which was made with the help of Bandi Namco Entertainment, places classic Pokémon characters into a fighting game similar to the Tekken series. It is a game that Pokémon fans had been curious about ever since seeing Pikachu among the roster of Nintendo’s fighting game, Super Smash Brothers.
“That [Pokken] would have been much more of a risk if they’d never tested the formula,” said Goodwin. “Nintendo is very good at marrying different franchises.”
In March 2017, Nintendo will release its newest mobile console, the Nintendo Switch. Many Pokémon fans are hoping that, with its ability to be played at home or on the go, they will finally get a console Pokémon game.
“From a technology standpoint, the franchise has long legs,” said Goodwin. “Because it is the second most lucrative franchise owned by Nintendo, it’s a flag ship. I wouldn’t be surprised if a new Pokémon game were to come out for the Nintendo Switch.”
Above all, the strength of Pokémon has always been its ability to bring people together. By trading with other players to collect all 721 current Pokémon, a strong community has formed that has remained standing these 20 years.
“I see the franchise as being valuable because there are so many people connected to it,” said Goodwin. “It’s an ambassador for new technologies and innovations.”