Pokémon still going strong

Yesterday the New York Times reported on a startling discovery: Water is wet!

Oh, wait. That’s not it. Hang on.

Ah, here we are. Right. Actually, they reported that Pokémon is still really popular. This is, of course, fascinating and breaking news…

… if you live in a cave.

More to the point, it’s news if you don’t have a child—and I do hate to stereotype, but preferably a boychild—between the ages of, say, five and twelve living in your house. For people like me, there’s never been any question of the popularity which all things Pokémon are enjoying.

Anyway, the article talks about the brand from a more scientific angle than “my kid is constantly pestering me for this stuff,” which I suppose is interesting. Get a load of this:

Pokémon began in Japan in 1996 and reached the United States two years later. By 1999, it had become such a cornerstone of pop culture that the characters were featured on the covers of Time, The New Yorker and TV Guide; in 2001 the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade added a Pikachu balloon.

But the attention led to overexposure. “One of the things about brands that enjoy enormous popularity is that they tend to also crash,” Ms. Rawlinson [VP of licensing for the brand] said.

Although the games and cards have always sold consistently to their core audience of boys, starting in about 2003 sales of licensed merchandise came to a standstill. “There was very little, if any, product on the shelves,” Ms. Rawlinson said. “It was a very tired time for us.”

See, now, I find this hard to believe, though I suppose it must be true. It certainly has always looked like a group of Pokémon threw up in my son’s room, but I can’t speak for general availability of product, obviously.

The article goes on to detail the rags-to-riches (ha!) story of Pokémon’s revival this past year. Pikachu needs a new pair of shoes, baby.

Sales of the trading cards this year have already exceeded sales for all of 2006, and by the end of the year are expected to triple last year’s total, according to Pokémon USA. The June 4 debut episode of “Pokémon Diamond and Pearl” on the Cartoon Network was the top-rated show that day for boys ages 6 to 11.

Total merchandise sales this year are expected to exceed $50 million, compared with less than $4 million last year, Ms. Rawlinson said.

After the overexposure issues of recent years, the company has learned to be more selective about licensing its name. “We get requests for all kinds of products, but now we turn a lot down,” Ms. Rawlinson said. Would-be Pokémon products that ended up on the reject list include diapers and gerbil cages.

Gerbil cages??? I… that’s just… well, now I’ve heard everything.

And I guess I’ll just have to buy that Dora the Explorer gerbil cage, instead.

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2 thoughts on “Pokémon still going strong

  1. Yup, it’s still mega popular, that’s for sure. And I’m sure it will be more popular with the March 22 release of Pokemon: Platinum Version.
    It’s not a bad thing. I’ve been a Pokemon fan ever since I was six or so, and I don’t plan on growing out of it. Twenty years from now, I hope I’ll be at work, talking to my boss, asking him if he caught that Zapdos last night.