Wii-mania at Ty’s Toy Box

To hear my children tell it, we are living in the only household in America that still (insert loud child sighing, right here) doesn’t own a Nintendo Wii. I am a monster, I tell you.

Unfortunately, as an employee of Ty’s, I’m thinking that I’m probably not eligible to enter this awesome drawing for a complete Wii system that they’re holding. Darn it. But probably you could enter, and then, if you win? Please invite my family over. Because we are deprived, y’all.

The contest will be taking entries through October 15th, 2008, so you have plenty of time to enter. Then again, why wait?

If you’re a hipper and nicer mom than I am, you probably already have a Nintendo Wii. And if you do, did you know that Ty’s carries plenty of popular Wii games? If we actually owned a Wii, my son would be demanding the Code Lyoko game and (of course!) Pokemon Battle Revolution. And my daughter would want Hannah Montana’s Spotlight World Tour, of course.

Me, I’m sort of eying the High School Musical Sing It! game. Stop looking at me like that—it’s purely for the opportunity to embarrass my children, of course. The fact that the music is incredibly catchy isn’t part of the equation at all. Probably.

Anyway, there you go. Whether you’re looking to shop or win, Ty’s has you covered.

New Pokémon game to be the death of me

My son just had a birthday. I know, that’s so lucky, because it’s not like we just did a bunch of celebrating and had presents or anything.

Oh, wait….

Anyway, my son is still deeply in love with all things Pokémon. He thinks Pokémon thoughts and plays Pokémon games and tells me to call him Ash and insists that his stuffed Pikachu is real and threatens to stuff his sister into a Pokeball until she can behave.

It was really endearing. For the first two years. Now I am sort of beginning to wonder when this particular obsession starts to die down a little bit.

Anyway, my parents asked what my son would like for his birthday, and I said, “Socks. He loves socks! They are nice and soft and quiet and boring. Plus, they come in either black or white. Perfect!” Well, no. That’s what I wish I had said. Instead, because I am the world’s greatest mother (stop laughing), I said, “Well, he’s still really into Pokémon. You might want to look and see if there are any new games. Or even just a pack of cards would probably thrill him.”

Guess what came in the mail? That’s right! The new Pokémon Champion Island game! It’s a board game! It’s a DVD game! It’s a board game that you play along with a DVD, and it’s very! exciting!

Even my daughter was excited.

I have to admit, it’s pretty cool. It takes the whole board game thing to another level and it’s fun to play more than just once (which many games nowadays are not), which is a good thing because my son wants to play it all the time.

Would he like to play with some of his Christmas presents? No, he would like to play Pokémon Champion Island. Would he like to have a nice snack? Maybe some candy? No, he would like to play Pokémon Champion Island. How about a pony? Would he like me to buy him a pretty pony? No, he wants to play Pokémon Champion Island again and Mama, please, Mama, come play with us one more time, please?

School doesn’t start again here until tomorrow. So, um, if you need me before then? I’ll be having my butt handed to me in Pokémon Champion Island….

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.

Pokémon Learning League seeking recruits

Someone has decided that they will not rest until I am forced to eat my words when it comes to Ash Ketchum and his gang. I don’t know who that person is, but I sort of want to kick him. In the shins. Hard.

Listen; I am happy disliking Pokémon. It doesn’t bother me. I am content to twitch a little every time my son sighs with contentment, having located Pikachu on the television. I do not want to like it. I am at peace with my staunch refusal to appreciate creatures who speak via repetition of their own names.

But this. This! It may be too much for me:

Pokemon USA on Wednesday announced Pokemon Learning League, a Web-based series of lessons on language arts, math, science and life skills aimed at kids ages 8 – 12. Available as a free trial through the end of the year, the service will commence a $95 annual subscription fee (for families; separate fees are licensed for classrooms and school use) starting in January.

The Web-based learning series utilizes Adobe Flash technology, so itââ¬â¢s Mac and PC-compatible. The program features characters popularized by the seemingly endless series of Pokemon card games, TV shows, video games and toys, but is based on current education research and is aligned with curriculum standards, according to the developer.

I went and played around with it a bit, and I have some terrible news.

It looks… really, really cool. There! I said it! It’s Pokémon and it’s awesome! Are you happy now? I admitted it. This is totally something I can get behind, as a parent, because it leverages children’s interest in the story to lead them through the same sort of work that many kids would shun as boring without a familiar character tie-in.

I’ll definitely be checking back as the site is updated with more functionality, and also keeping an eye out for schools adopting the system for classroom use.

But I’m still going to twitch whenever one of those creatures opens his mouth, no matter how educational it is. Just see if I don’t.

Avatar and Pokémon: More, more, more!

It’s a little odd for me to be writing about these two shows together, given that I really enjoy Avatar and really… ummmm… don’t enjoy Pokémon. But my son suffers from a slavish devotion to both shows, and it turns out that there happens to be news to share on both of them, today.

Were you feeling Avatar-deprived? Perhaps a tad Pokémon-deficient? Help is on the way, in the form of new episodes for both shows. Newsarama has the whole scoop and I have the highlights.

Are you sick of listening to me talk about the upcoming Avatar movie yet? Yes? Too bad. Newsarama’s Steve Fritz has only made me more anxious to see it:

Well, the next two-chapter installment is subtitled: “The Secret of the Fire Nation.” It will air on Friday, September 15 at 8:00 p.m. with repeats on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 4:00 p.m. I have to admit I was totally blown away. It’s some of the best work DeMartino and Konietzko has done.

But the truly wonderful news is this:

As for the future of the series, inside sources at Nickelodeon assured me that Avatar will start going back to its more regular Friday night, 8:00 p.m. schedule in the very near future. There will be times when the show is pre-empted because of other specials, but it did sound like this once-a-month fix is nearing the end of its reign. About time if you asked me.

Because it seems Nickelodeon is truly pleased with the results it’s getting, not only has the network given the series a greenlight for a third season of an additional 20 episodes, but is also talking to the creators about a fourth and maybe more. According to www.TV.com. if that does happen, the war with the Fire nation will be over and a new arc will begin.

Awesome. Is it wrong for a grown woman to be daydreaming about what the next major conflict would be after the war with the Fire nation is resolved…?

Ahem.

And in begrudging “I wish it weren’t so but I guess it’s an item of note” news, not only is there a new season of Pokémon for Saturday mornings, there’s also a new “limited series” called Mystery Dungeon set to run on Friday night:

As for Mystery Dungeon, this series goes in an entirely new direction. It starts with a young boy being turned into a Pokemon himself. Now a Squirtle, he joins a Chikorita and a Charmander as part of a new rescue team. The big thing is in this series the little critters actually talk to each other, using the English language no less.

It will air this Friday, September 8, at 8:00 p.m.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this—and I’ll probably deny it later—but I actually think Mystery Dungeon sounds palatable, even if only because the Pokémon can converse instead of squeaking their names at each other ad nauseam. I’ll have to check it out and report back.