The Web BtC

A Look at the Marketing of Pokemon

Pickachu can’t even fly. How does it make sense for him to be on the jet? The honor should have gone to Farfetch'd
The Pokemon craze is in the twilight. Oh sure there are kids out there with Lucario hats battling it out in mall food courts but they are freaks, nerds that nobody but their small group of friends like. But man, back a few years ago you couldn't go anywhere without being reminded in some way that Pokemon existed. It was everywhere, store fronts, children's clothing, on the cover of TIME magazine. Pokemon even had a jet for god's sake. A freaking jet!

For this article I'm going to take a look at the marketing strength Pokemon once possessed. We'll explore a few of the marketing ploys Nintendo used to make money from the franchise, have a few laughs and maybe, just maybe, we'll learn something.

I will be skipping the main games in the series since that isn't really a marketing ploy, as much as what the series is suppose to be. Really, video games are the only thing a video game series needs to have. The rest is just milk. So I'll just ignore those. If you want an article making fun of Pokemon games then go to some other website, honkey. I'm not going to invest that kind of time. Those games can take at least or maybe even more than 60 minutes to beat. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 doesn't take that long to beat. That's why Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a better game.

First of all, we should cover the TV show. Talk about a power house. I'm not referring to quality of course, just quantity. Starting in 1997, the Pokemon anime has aired 580 episodes so far with more on the way. In comparison Seinfeld, a television classic, was on for 11 years and had 180 episodes. M*A*S*H, like Seinfeld, was on for 11 years, and pales in comparison to Pokemon with a mere 251 episodes. Hell, Law and Order is the longest running primetime drama and even it gets beaten with Pokemon leading by 167 episodes.

In addition to the main series there is a spin off Pokemon titled Pokemon Chronicles. This series is about side characters from the main series having adventures. It's like if The Simpsons (a feeble 426 episodes) had a show where you watched episodes about Barney or Mr. Burns. Sounds kind of interesting when you have a large well defined cast but exactly how successful can it be when it's the cast of Pokemon? Well I don't know I've never seen the show, but I'm guessing in this case, fairly well financially, artistically not so much.

Oh and who can forget the movies? I can't, no matter how much grain alcohol I pour down my gullet. There are to date eleven Pokemon movies released, one coming out every year since the first. That is just plain incredible. Godzilla can't even put out movies at that rate and Godzilla is the king when it comes to putting out huge numbers of movies without caring about quality. I don't know how long it normally takes to make an animated movie but I'm going to guess more than 12 months. There must be a studio solely devoted to Pokemon movies. As soon as one is done, they start work on the next.

Being the guy who writes the scripts for Pokemon movies must be the best job ever. Nobody cares about the quality and even if they decide the story sucks there's no time to fire you and have somebody else write something. You just throw something together about how the power of friendship makes it easier to win fights, make sure a new Pokemon is featured in a marketable way, and then throw in some slapstick. Boom you've got a movie written in less than a week and have eleven months before they make you start work on the next one. Until then its all margaritas and bukkake porno.

Think about this for a moment, we have high school graduates who have been able to watch new episodes of Pokemon for the majority of their lives. Is this good? What kind of generation are we creating? Look at people born in the 80s. They are all fucked up by their nostalgia for cartoons like Masters of the Universe or GI Joe. They go around buying merchandise for those shows while singing their praises despite the fact neither of those shows are good and were cancelled in less than three years. My prediction is that children who watch eleven years worth of Pokemon will be crippled by their childhood love . They will be so busy making AMVs with the future equivalent of Linkin Park and debating why Pokemon is awesome, but would be more awesome if it had tons of blood and serious storylines, that they will never emerge from their basements, not even to buy Pokemon themed t-shirts from Walmart. Nerd based economy will collapse! Hobby stores will close and book stores will stop giving more room to Japanese comic books then they do to regular books. Come to think of it maybe that won't be so bad.

Longevity aside it's not that uncommon for a video game series to have a cartoon tie in, Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, Viva Pinata, and JFK Reloaded have all had animated commercials, I mean tv programs. However none of them have had a collectable card game.*

*Disclaimer: I didn't actually check if any of those franchises have a collectable card game.

Released at the height of the collectable card game craze, Pokemon Trading Card Game or TCG. Pokemon TCG is designed to replicate a Pokemon battle, but with cards instead of Gameboys and virgins instead of computer opponents. I'm sure there are many many intricate game play mechanisms that balding 45 year old men at the hobby store want to explain to me but I don't care. I'm here to pick up a new Vampire the Masquerade module, not listen to your super lame kiddie card game, loser.

Vampires are so dark and mysterious. I wonder why only fat girls are into them.
Magic the Gathering fans were surely upset when this cutesy video game product tie in came by and knocked their favorite game from its perch. At least that's what I assume. Considering that Magic the Gathering was basically the only collectable card game to have any sort of popularity outside of the dank recesses of gaming conventions I just assume they were upset when their hobby was co-opted by elementary school students. Just look how angry people on the internet are with the Wii. Instead of having another unsuccessful system Nintendo decided to target a previously untapped audience, toddlers and old people who don't like video games. Now they are making more money then a money making factory. That doesn't stop nerds from crying out in anger about how Nintendo doesn't exclusively make games for hardcore gamers, because when I think of Mario I think hardcore gaming. Actually I don't, I think "game I played when I was five."

What I do know is that after the Pokemon TCG came out the magazine Inquest jumped all over it. Desperate to draw in any and all readers they started alternating their covers from Pokemon to near naked sci fi woman. Three months Pickachu then the Predator but with boobs. If you had a subscription to the magazine you either looked like a weenie or a pervert. It was embarrassing for readers but proved to be useful. Skills learned from hiding Inquest from your family could later be applied to porn magazines once the reader graduated from middle school and could no longer get off to bra adds from JC Penny.

In a bizarre turn of events, Pokemon TCG was adapted for the Game Boy Color. This means there is a video game based off a card game based off of a video game franchise. Its too bad that the Gameboy version didn't prove popular enough that they wanted to make a TV show based off of the story. Then the TV show becomes so popular that a video game is based off of it because then we would have a game based off of a show based off another video game based off of a collectable card game based off a video game which has a TV show. I'm pretty sure at that point the universe would implode.

Imagine a scenario if you will. You're a divorcee with court appointed visitation every other weekend. Thanks to your ex-wife's contestant stream of hatred your child view you as some sort of ogre. You need to win them back, but how? Well if its 2000 and you're kid is in elementary school then you take them to see Pokemon Live! Please note I'm not excited to talk about this, the exclamation mark appears to be part of the name.

Pokemon Live! was a stage show which is basically an episode of the anime but with singing. For some reason people marketing people think kids love musicals. That's why they shoehorned music into the Land Before Time sequels even though the original was awesome without the power of song. Adding music to the stage show makes Pokemon Live! similar to that Ninja Turtles concert from the 90s but 100% less awesome because it doesn't feature an ironic rap about hating music.

The villain of the show was MechaMew2, a robot version of Mewtwo. If you've ever seen the movie Chopping Mall then imagine one of those robots fucked Darth Vader. Then imagine it being turned to the light side with a laser beam that shoots "love, caring, and friendship" which causes it to grab it's evil master by the throat and self destruct. You know what, after hearing that I can't decide if this show is lame or awesome.

I think the most telling thing about Pokemon Live!'s quality is the fact that it has never been released on video. This is a franchise out to make as much money as possible yet they won't let this see the light of day. That tells you something. Tells you a lot really.

Pokemon sex toys? Hell it's the year 2000, let's go for it.
Maybe being able to watch Pokemon on TV, play the games, see it live, or fly in it just isn't enough for you. What if you want to read Marmaduke but can't deny your obsession long enough to open the paper? Well my friend it's a good thing they made a Pokemon comic strip.

I can't tell you much about it. Everybody on the internet seems to be in agreement to keep the entire thing hush hush. The few bits of information are mostly to hype the release of the strip. Obviously these things are old since nobody would even try something so retarded nowadays. A Pokemon comic strip is extremely dumb but it was 2000, people were happy that the apocalypse hadn't occurred, yet disappointed that Jesus didn't come back. We were sure one of those would happen. When your faith in the inevitable is shaken you go back to the one thing you can truly trust and back then the only thing you could be sure of was anything remotely having to do with Pokemon would sell like the shit.

Basically the only thing I can find that is more then a news brief is this site where some weeaboo tears the comic a new one because, you won't believe this, its different from the original. He poorly makes his point by showing the Japanese version which has a joke that is pretty meh and requires half the space to be spent explaining who the Pokemon are and then showing the American version which I think has a pretty funny, although morbid, joke.

About half a minute of searching made me realize Dogasu's real problem with the comic, it wasn't Japanese. I realized this after I found the section of the site where he goes over in terrible detail how the American episodes of Pokemon are different then the Japanese. One thing which is different is that the American episodes don't feature Japanese writing. Dogasu assumes this is because of a "borderline racist vendetta" I assume it's because American children can't read Japanese.

The car shoots electricity at you if you cut it off.
When Pokemon came out Nintendo knew they couldn't just rely on the video game and cartoon to garner attention. After all, why would you want your product to rely entirely on its own merits when you can do all sorts of things to promote it. Like you could take a Beetle and make it look like Pickachu. So that's what they did. The electric mouse mobile drove about and gave out prizes or something, I'm not sure. One thing I am sure of is that it confused elderly motorists.

Another way Nintendo likes to promote Pokemon is by having special events where you are given a special, powerful Pokemon, as a door prize. When the original two games came out Nintendo of America did this with Mew. In the Japanese version you could get Mew in the game itself but Nintendo said "fuck you" to Americans who didn't live in a major city. Hey assholes in Wyoming guess what, you do not get the most powerful Pokemon, unless you own a Game Genie or something. Have fun spending the next three years fruitfully following internet rumors that say they will end with Mew but are nothing but a pack of lies.

A lot of the earlier Pokemon events and promotions were tied in with Kentucky Fried Chicken, because when you are promoting video games you want to make sure to be associated with the greasiest least healthy food possible. Its great for your image. KFC actually ties directly into the one reason I wrote this article. You see a couple of days ago it occurred to me that when Pokemon first came out KFC had a promotion where they sold plush Pokemon, but this was dumb because if the game had just come out nobody would know what those things were. I also remembered that they sold Seel and Zubat and those are like the most retarded Pokemon out there. Out of 151 choices they chose the two lamest ones.

I tried to confirm my hazy decade old recollection but the internet is not being helpful. Apparently everybody is busy imagining what Misty looks like when she humps Psyduck and can't be bothered to record ancient Kentucky Fried Chicken promotions.

So the idea that made me write this article, the only joke I had going in, turns out to be the one thing I can't really joke around too much because I don't know if I know what I'm talking about. I'll make things up if I have at least a base on whatever it is but here I'm completely stone cold. Damn it, I know there was a Pokemon plush toy promotion at Kentucky Friend Chicken and someday I will have every single filthy detail. Then I will write an article about it that will be legendary. Until then I must search out for the clues. Quick to the archives! We have research to conduct!