As Pokémon makes a comeback on its latest platform, Pokémon Go, fans of the franchise are looking at a gameplay that is both immersive and nostalgic.
Video games have come and gone, some lasting longer than others. Throughout the years, the companies that created them have expanded into other markets such as the film and toy industries. Some, if very popular, have gathered a large number of fans that regularly form a convention where they can talk about and dress-up as their favorite video game characters.
When people hear “Pokémon,” some remember the trading cards, others remember the anime, and most remember the video games of their childhood. Its nostalgic appeal, effective marketing techniques, and constant innovation and integration into people’s lives make Pokémon still one of the most prominent video games in the world today. This is even more evident with the release of the application Pokémon Go and the hype surrounding it. The Pokémon name is once again resurfacing, but with a new gameplay.
The cradle of a classic
In 1990, Geek Freak Magazine’s Satoshi Tajiri had hopes for a video game concept that was based on anime—or Japanese animation—and Japanese comic books called manga. Taking inspiration from how he used to catch and collect bugs as a child, Tajiri developed Pokémon, a game where players could capture strange creatures in odd containers called “Poké balls” and use these creatures to battle against those of others.
The name “Pokémon” is a blend word derived from poketto monsutā, which means “pocket monsters” in Japanese. Six years later, the first Pokémon game was released for Game Boy, a handheld gaming device.
The popular phrase, “only 90’s kids will understand,” almost does not apply to Pokémon fans. As the years went on, the game became available for other types of Nintendo products. Over the years, Pokémon has released six generations. Their seventh one, entitled Pokémon Sun and Moon, will be having its release in November this year.
A “generation” is a group of Pokémon games that is separated from groups with different sets of Pokémon, characters, and gameplay concepts. Each generation varies not only in terms of its graphics, but also in terms of its setting, gameplay, options, customizations, and as well as the addition of new Pokémon species and types. The reason for this variation is mainly to keep fans interested and engaged.
Because of its popularity as a video game, the franchise expanded into other media and entertainment platforms. In early 1997, an anime television series of the same name aired in Japan. The following year, Pokémon: The First Moviewas released. According to the Pokémon website, the franchise has released around 19 movies and 913 episodes.
John Gokongwei School of Management Business Resource Center director John Lagdameo says, “It’s generational marketing. If you started with Pokémon when you were young, and that’s what’s familiar with you, it sticks with you until whatever age you are.” With the popularity and sense of nostalgia that Pokémon has evoked, the game has successfully created and established a place for itself in the minds of numerous audiences, regardless of age, gender, and race.Playing with reality
Along with this sense of sentimentality for the past, Associate Vice-Chairperson for Evaluation of the Sanggunian Department of Research and Statistics Arvin Boller (BS PSY ‘13) says, “A lot of the new games become influential [because they’re] becoming more real.” The more integrated a video game is with reality, the more attractive it is to people.
Pokémon Go, the franchise’s most recently released mobile game, is an Augmented Reality (AR) game. AR games superimpose a computer-generated image onto a user’s view of the real world. In Pokémon Go, this means that using your phone’s camera, you will be able to virtually find, catch, train, and battle Pokémon all on your phone’s screen. Lagdameo adds that although AR isn’t new, Pokémon’s unique concept makes the interactive gameplay engaging. “It’s an adventure,” he adds.
With the recent release of Pokémon Go, the media franchise has now branched out from video game consoles to hand-held mobile devices—a feat that gives the franchise a sizable audience, since most people are already in possession of an iOS or Android phone.
“I think the greatest draw of Pokémon Go is the fact that it now allows you to fulfill something that you cannot before. Suddenly, there’s a fulfillment of this dream [that] I can travel and become [a] Pokémon trainer in real life,” says Boller. Because of this effect, the gap between the virtual and real worlds becomes smaller, and the difference between what is real and what isn’t blurs, according to Boller,
The brand has also made a collection of merchandise: Trading cards, toys, and so many others. Alongside this, separate online and console games have also been added, some with their own unique storylines apart from the original game series. In fact, The Pokémon Company has advertised their media franchise to such an extent that, as computer science major and avid Pokémon fan Adrian Danao puts it, “the anime and other merchandise [act as] an advertisement for the game itself.”
This marketing tactic Pokémon has employed time and again has greatly helped the company grow from its humble Japanese roots into the burgeoning franchise that it is today. By conquering and expanding to various platforms, the franchise may not be losing its popularity anytime soon.
As of late July, the International Business Times, an online news publication, says that the Android Application Package is only available in Japan within Asia. This scarcity is due to the massive number of people who are playing the game in other continents. The developer, Niantic Labs, reportedly paused international rollouts so as not to overload its servers.
This issue did not discourage some of our Filipino Pokémon enthusiasts however, as most simply switched to a particular country’s application store where the game was already made available to be able to download it.
However, since most servers in Asia still aren’t compatible with the game, these fans are still unable to play the game. This tenacity only shows the popularity that Pokémon Go has garnered and the eagerness the public has shown regarding its release.
As to what makes people so attracted to Pokémon Go, Boller shares that, “Pokémon Go puts that life into your own hands. Parang, ikaw na mismo yung player (It’s like you are the player yourself).”
Just as it is for any other franchise, the future is unsure for The Pokémon Company. “There’s always a time when people get [tired] with the whole thing,” says Lagdameo. Yet, Boller says that “[t]he future of Pokémon Go and these types of games depends on how they may be able to become real.”
If the brand were to continue adapting and coming up with new, upgraded, or revised material that further involve players into the game, it is most likely that Pokémon won’t be going anywhere any time soon. And with it still attracting people even after two decades, the odds are that the Pokémon legacy will continue to expand into other platforms while holding onto the distinctive identity that its fans have grown to love.