It has been ten years since the wonderful world of Pokémon
first took us by storm. In February 1996 an invasion of peculiar creatures known as Pokémon occurred in Japan, before becoming a phenomenon in the US and then Europe, on a scale never seen before. To the shock and disbelief of European media, a Japanese toy captured the hearts and minds of children all over the continent in a way never quite seen before, becoming a success overnight.
Since then, Pokémon has evolved from its humble beginnings as a computer game to launch multiple cartoons, toy ranges, pasta shapes, movies
and even a Pokémon branded jumbo jet! Now in its seventh year in Europe, this craze shows no signs of dying down - Pokémon is here to stay!
In 1990, Satoshi Tajiri, of game developer GAME FREAK inc. presented a virtually complete concept for a game inspired by a love of collecting insects as a child. After a further six years of intensive development at GAME FREAK inc. in 1996 Nintendo launched two versions of a new game, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green.
With hopes that Pokémon would be a million seller, the initial sales figures were in fact rather disappointing. Publicity started to gather pace, however, when Corocoro magazine – publishers of the Pokémon comic strip – revealed details of a mysterious Pokémon which sometimes appeared at random in the game. But how could the kids catch it? The interest and publicity surrounding this rare Pokémon, called Mew – whose random appearances were due to a software glitch - gave impetus to sales and by September 1996, Pokémon Red and Green had sold 1 million copies.
Following on from these games' unprecedented success, the first Pokémon cartoon was broadcast in Japan on April 1st 1997. In July 1998, the first Pokémon movie, "Mewtwo strikes back
" was released and worldwide sales topped $36 million. This prompted the opening of a store solely dedicated to Pokémon in the heart of Tokyo. In September 1998 Pokémon was introduced to America along with the cartoon series. Seven years down the line and a Pokémon theme park was opened for the first time in Nagoya, Japan, as part of the Expo 2005 in Aichi prefecture. Between its opening in March and September the same year, there had been over 4.1 Million visitors to the park! And POKéPARK is returning from June 2006; this time around though the lucky hosts and lucky Pokémon fans will be in Taipei, Taiwan.
In September 1999, European audiences were given their first taste of the Pokémon television series, which accompanied the launch of the video games Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue (Pokémon Green in Japan). By the end of 1999 it was clear that there was no stopping Pokémon becoming a global phenomenon.
Aside from the video games, one of the most popular Pokémon products is the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Launching alongside the franchise in Europe, the Trading Card Game (TCG) has been fuelled by Organised Play programs in over 30 Countries and has to date spurred sales of 14 billion cards. It is now distributed in 22 countries in Europe with local leagues and national championships. The TCG highlight of the year is the Pokémon TCG World Championships, which this year will take place in August in Anaheim, California.
The Pokémon Company will also be launching a whole new Trading Figure Game. Crafted by Kaiyodo, this is a Pokémon 'own brand' product, and is the first Trading Figure Game from Pokémon. It will be making its European debut in summer 2006, before any other territory.
In 2003 Nintendo released the hugely successful series on the Game Boy Advance in the form of Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire. This game was an instant phenomenon and has since gone on to sell a staggering 15 million copies worldwide to date. October 2004 saw the release of Pokémon FireRed and Pokémon LeafGreen for the Game Boy Advance, selling a staggering 250,000 games across Europe in just two days! Globally combined sales of these games have gone on to top over 9 million (by end December 2005). With the launch of the Nintendo DS in 2005, a Pokémon inspired racing game, Pokémon Dash, was subsequently launched.
The latest success story in a history of gaming accolades belongs to Pokémon Emerald. Launched in October 2005 on the Game Boy Advance SP, this game reached a staggering 1.2 million sales across Europe and nearly 5 million worldwide by the end of 2005. One month later, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness launched on the Nintendo GameCube.
The worldwide Pokémon franchise is estimated to be worth approximately $25 Billion. In Japan alone Pokémon merchandise accounted for $4 Billion of sales in its first eighteen months. Europe wide nearly 35 million Pokémon games have been sold since its debut nearly seven years ago.