Pokemon celebrates 20 years of 'catching 'em all'
SATURDAY will mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Pocket Monsters, a popular video game also known as Pokemon.
A total of 25 major video- game titles featuring Pokemon characters have been released, and about 200 million copies of them have been sold.
The accumulated sales of Pokemon-related products, including TV anime programmes and character goods, have reached about 4.6 trillion yen (S$60 billion). The Pokemon characters are continuing to evolve and capture affection all over the world.
The Pokemon Store, which operates in a terminal of Kansai Airport, is crowded every day with foreigner visitors departing Japan. A 20-year-old vocational-school student from Russia who shopped among the goods, including stuffed toys exclusively available at the airport, said: "Most people in Russia also know Pokemon."
Players of Pokemon games control the lead character, who travels through a fictitious world to capture and raise various monsters, including Pikachu and Wanriki (English name: Machop).
The first product of the video-game series was released on Nintendo's Game Boy on Feb 27, 1996. It proved to be a big hit, especially among primary- school pupils.
Pokemon card game sets, which were first released following the video game, have been sold in 74 countries and regions, and their accumulated shipments exceed 21.5 billion cards.
In 1997, a Pokemon TV anime was first broadcast in Japan, and it has now been aired in 93 countries and regions.
Eighteen Pokemon movies have also been produced and watched by a total of about 70 million people.
Nowadays, movies and TV anime that feature video-game characters, such as Yo-kai Watch created by Fukuoka-based Level-5, are popular. Pokemon was a pioneer of this business strategy, which is known as "media mix".
The concept for the Pokemon games was developed by Satoshi Tajiri, 50, president of Game Freak, a Tokyo-based game-development company. He got the idea from his childhood experience of collecting insects.
An unconventional feature of Pokemon games is that players can swop characters by connecting their copies of the software to their friends' copies via communication cables.
Tsunekazu Ishihara, 58, is president of The Pokemon Company, a Tokyo-based firm established in 1998 to promote Pokemon goods and other related businesses. He has been involved in the series since the first product was released.
"The products had the power to involve a player and many of their friends and spread," he said.
Pokemon will start appearing in the real world this year, with a new smartphone-based game titled Pokemon GO, scheduled for release before the end of 2016.
With the use of a global positioning system, players will be able to walk around and search for monsters hidden in real-world places such as parks and railway stations.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK