Pokémon (ポケモン Pokemon,[1][2]) is a media franchise published and owned by Japanese video game company Nintendo and created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1996. Originally released as a pair of interlinkable Game Boy role-playing video games developed by Game Freak, Pokémon has since become the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world, behind only Nintendo’s own Mario franchise.[3] Pokémon properties have since been merchandised into anime, manga, trading cards, toys, books, and other media. The franchise celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2006,[4] and as of 28 May 2010, cumulative sales of the video games (including home console versions, such as the “Pikachu” Nintendo 64) have reached more than 200 million copies.[5] In November 2005, 4Kids Entertainment, which had managed the non-game related licensing of Pokémon, announced that it had agreed not to renew the Pokémon representation agreement. Pokémon USA Inc. (now The Pokémon Company International), a subsidiary of Japan’s Pokémon Co., now oversees all Pokémon licensing outside of Asia.[6]

The name Pokémon is the romanized contraction of the Japanese brand Pocket Monsters (ポケットモンスター Poketto Monsutā),[7] as such contractions are quite common in Japan. The term Pokémon, in addition to referring to the Pokémon franchise itself, also collectively refers to the 649 fictional species that have made appearances in Pokémon media as of the release of the fifth generation titles Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. “Pokémon” is identical in both the singular and plural, as is each individual species name; it is grammatically correct to say “one Pokémon” and “many Pokémon”, as well as “one Pikachu” and “many Pikachu”.

Cultural influence

Pokémon, being a popular franchise, has undoubtedly left its mark on pop culture. The Pokémon characters themselves have become pop culture icons; examples include two different Pikachu balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Pokémon Jets operated by All Nippon Airways, thousands of merchandise items, and a theme park in Nagoya, Japan in 2005 and Taipei in 2006. Pokémon also appeared on the cover of the U.S. magazine Time in 1999. The Comedy Central show Drawn Together has a character named Ling-Ling which is a direct parody of Pikachu.[8] Several other shows such as ReBoot, The Simpsons, South Park, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Robot Chicken, All Grown Up! and Johnny Test have made references and spoofs of Pokémon, among other series. Pokémon was also featured on VH1’s I Love the ’90s: Part Deux. A live action show called Pokémon Live! toured the United States in late 2000. It was based on the popular Pokémon anime, but had some continuity errors relating to it. Jim Butcher cites Pokémon as one of the inspirations for the Codex Alera series of novels.

In November 2001, Nintendo opened a store called the Pokémon Center in New York, in New York’s Rockefeller Center,[9] modeled after the two other Pokémon Center stores in Tokyo and Osaka and named after a staple of the videogame series; Pokémon Centers are fictional buildings where Trainers take their injured Pokémon to be healed after combat.[10] The store sold Pokémon merchandise on a total of two floors, with items ranging from collectible shirts to stuffed Pokémon plushies.[11] The store also featured a Pokémon Distributing Machine in which players would place their game to receive an egg of a Pokémon that is being given out at that time. The store also had tables that were open for players of the Pokémon Trading Card Game to duel each other or an employee. The store was closed and replaced by the Nintendo World Store on May 14, 2005.[12]

Joseph Jay Tobin theorizes that the success of the franchise was mainly due to the long list of names that could be learned by children and repeated in their peer groups. The rich fictional universe provided a lot of opportunities for discussion and demonstration of knowledge in front of their peers. In the French version Nintendo took care to translate the name of the creatures so that they reflected the French culture and language. In all cases the names of the creatures were linked to its characteristics, which converged with the children’s belief that names have symbolic power. Children could pick their favourite Pokémon and affirm their individuality while at the same time affirming their conformance to the values of the group, and they could distinguish themselves from other kids by asserting what they liked and what they didn’t like from every chapter. Pokémon gained popularity because it provided a sense of identity to a wide variety of children, and lost it quickly when many of those children found that the identity groups were too big and searched for identities that would distinguish them into smaller groups.[13]

In December 2009, a “Pokémon profile picture month” on popular social networking website Facebook started, with over 100,000 (by some estimates) Facebook users changing the image displayed on their profile webpages to that of a Pokémon. In 2010, more than 252,000 people replied as “attending”, or taking part in, the event, at least double the previous year.[14]

Pokémon‘s history has been marked at times by rivalry with the Digimon media franchise that debuted at a similar time. Described as “the other ‘mon'” by IGN’s Juan Castro, Digimon has not enjoyed Pokémon‘s level of international popularity or success, but has maintained a dedicated fanbase.[15] IGN’s Lucas M. Thomas stated that Pokémon is Digimon‘s “constant competition and comparison”, attributing the former’s relative success to the simplicity of its evolution mechanic as opposed to Digivolution.[16] The two have been noted for conceptual and stylistic similarities by sources such as GameZone.[17] A debate among fans exists over which of the two franchises came first.[18] In actuality, the first Pokémon media, Pokémon Red and Green, were released initially on February 27, 1996;[19] whereas the Digimon virtual pet was released on June 26, 1997.

References

Books
  • Tobin, Joseph, ed. Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon. Duke University Press., February, 2004. ISBN 0-8223-3287-6
Notes
  1. NLS/BPH: Other Writings, The ABC Book, A Pronunciation GuideSora Ltd.. Super Smash Bros. Brawl. (Nintendo). Wii. (March 9, 2008) “(Announcer’s dialog after the character Pokémon Trainer is selected (voice acted))”
  2. Boyes, Emma (January 10, 2007). “UK paper names top game franchises”. GameSpot. GameSpot UK. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
  3. “Pokemon 10-Year Retrospective”. IGN. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  4. “Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version for Nintendo DS coming to Europe in Spring 2011” (Press release). Nintendo. May 29, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2010.
  5. “Pokemon USA Moves Licensing In-House”, Gamasutra.
  6. Swider, Matt. “The Pokemon Series Pokedex”. Gaming Target. Retrieved February 28, 2007.
  7. “Pokemon Sightings and Rip-offs”. Retrieved June 29, 2008.
  8. Opening Date of Store
  9. Information on the Store
  10. Tour Site Page
  11. Manhattan Living Page On Store Archived by the Wayback Machine beta.
  12. Joseph Jay Tobin (2004). Pikachu’s global adventure: the rise and fall of Pokémon. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3287-6 ISBN 9780822332879.
  13. “Pokemon Profile Picture Month”. Facebook. 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  14. Castro, Juan (May 20, 2005). “E3 2005: Digimon World 4”. IGN. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  15. Thomas, Lucas M. (August 21, 2009). “Cheers & Tears: DS Fighting Games”. IGN. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  16. Bedigian, Louis (July 12, 2002). “Digimon World 3 Review”. GameZone. Archived from the original on 2010-01-27. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  17. DeVries, Jack (November 22, 2006). “Digimon World DS Review”. IGN. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  18. “Related Games”. GameSpot. Archived from the original on 2011-06-28. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
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