25 Years Of Pocket Monsters: The Ingenious Marketing of Pokémon

7 mins read

The unrequited dream of backpacking with best friends in the mountains and greens, and collecting the ubiquitous little monsters – getting it? (silent cries in the background)

Even if you’ve not been the “big fan” of Pokémon, the buzz and uproar created by Pokémon Go must have reached your ears?

Today, we’re ready to break down the marketing strategy of Pokémon – the game, the anime, the movies, the everything around it – and hey, let’s also catch some Pocket Monsters, shall we?

A crash course on Pokemon

For those unacquainted with the Pokémon Universe, Pokémon are Pocket Monsters who rest scattered across the Universe and you as a young boy mission out to collect them and train them as opponents to other trainers. It may sound fun but honestly, it’s way more than that! You HAVE to check it out!

Obsession and Vision produced in game form

The two fathers of Pokémon, Satoshi Tajiri (visionary writer and editor) and Ken Sugimori (illustrator) created a self-publishing gaming magazine Game Freak in the 1980s and in the same name started a video game development company in 1989. Tajiri pitched Nintendo about the development of Pokémon. Though unable to grasp the concept, Nintendo was impressed with Tajiri’s abilities and wanted to
explore more. Under the guidance of Shigeru Miyamoto, Tajiri went all out to create the Pokémon series.

The year 1996 saw the first light of the franchise as Pocket Monsters: Red and Pocket Monsters: Green (in the US and Europe, Red and Blue released in 1998) by Nintendo for Game Boy console. Fun trick: Pokémons could be traded with other players using a cable to connect each other’s Game Boy console. Nevertheless, the game sprang over to selling millions of copies and soon became a global phenomenon, and since then more generations have been released.

The start, however, was not the one everyone expected. Sales were slow and word of mouth did not kick-off. So, what do you think amplified it all? It was a prank. If you have been the regular Pocketmaster back in the day (or, even now), you might have stumbled over the 151st Pokémon – Mew. The monster was actually added at the eleventh hour by Shigeki Morimoto – without Nintendo’s knowledge. Unless some players discovered the existence of this creature, Pokémon might have stalled midway.

Source: Pokemon Pets

So, Mew amplified the word of mouth and gave a new light to the sales records of Pokémon – players got excited and curious to add the monster to their collection. The then popular, Corocoro comics released the Legendary Pokémon Offer contest in the May edition of 1996 where 20 lucky readers stood a chance to win a Mew of their own. The contest appreciated 78,000 entries – just the kick Pokémon needed.

Source: dogasu.bulbagarden

Trading Cards – A New Era

The miraculous hit of video games led to the influx of trading cards. Media Factory developed the Pokémon Trading Card Game (or TCG), the first set released in October 1996, containing 102 cards. TCG became a smashing hit and soon spread worldwide. The monstrous popularity sprang up tournaments and battles across the world, and if any of you might know (or even have participated) there is a Pokémon World Championship Tournament held every year.

Source: Polygon

Adaptation to Anime and Manga

Source: USgamer

Nevertheless, the games and TCG were a success, the animated TV series and manga popped up in 1997, beholding the mass with it an adventurous tour of Pokémon Universe and Ash Ketchum. Oh, and Pikachu refused to stay inside the Pokeball and instead explore the Universe with Ash and his pals. The overwhelming success of the series inspired makers to go all out for movies – both animated and 3D. Remember Detective Pikachu and when Mewtwo strikes back? Maybe, we can plead for a new movie with Blastoise centre-staged? Yes, girls?

Source: hcpress

Pokémon Go

Source: Pokemongolive.com

This was one heck of an adventure, wasn’t it? Like people ran out in the streets to collect Pokémons! Could we expect any less?

In 2016 the game sprang sometime in July and was enough to break all records, building a milestone for marketers. Layering a coat of Augmented Reality over smartphones, and leveraging GPS to fulfill the childhood urge – has fetched some hefty billion dollars. The game was a partnered product of Niantic, Nintendo, and Pokémon Company.

Pokémon Go did revive the childhood nostalgia of Pokémon TV series and video games, let users move out of their comfort zone to interact with the world around them, and satisfied the human craving for treasure hunting.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Pokémon – the phenomenon that happened. Officially branded as Pokémon25, you’ll get to see some cool events happening all around the year. New edition to the game series, yummy happy meals at McDonald’s, Special 25th edition trading cards, happy musicals with various artists (including Katy Perry), and many more.

So, Pocket Masters are you ready? Take out your Pokeballs and get your gears packed. It’s gonna be a fun year!