Nintendo's latest iteration in the long-running Pokemon franchise is proof positive that Pokemon can still sell like hotcakes. Selling through more than 882K units, Pokemon Emerald for GBA was No.1 on the multiplatform chart for the month of May, beating out LucasArts' Revenge of the Sith handily. We examine Emerald's success.
Pokemon is just a fad, right? Far from just being a flash in the pan, Nintendo's cultivation and expansion of the franchise has actually led to an increase in Pokemon sales as the years have gone on. The most recent release, Pokemon Emerald, had the highest first month sales for any game in the series yet.
100 Million Strong
There aren't many video game franchises that can lay claim to 100 million copies sold. In fact, Nintendo has two of the few entrants in the 100M club in the history of this industry. Mario reigns supreme, with over 180 million games sold, but Pokemon has been rapidly closing that gap since its debut in 1995. Nintendo announced recently that 100 million cumulative worldwide units had been shipped. It should be noted that that number includes only portable entrants in the series.
Emerald, despite being the newest entry in the franchise, has accounted for a sizable piece of that 100 Million pie. Nintendo shipped 1.72 million copies in Japan before the title was released stateside. May NPD data shows that the company sold an extremely impressive 882,000 copies upon its American release. The month's #2 SKU, Revenge of the Sith on PS2, moved 490,000 copies by comparison.
"In 2005 it might not be a fever anymore, but Emerald has proven that Pokemon is still one of gaming's elite franchises..."
This data indicates that worldwide shipments for Emerald have most likely surpassed 4 million units at this point. Not bad for a game that offers minor enhancements over its sister titles Fire Red and Leaf Green, which are themselves remakes of the two original Pokemon games.
The Pokemon franchise isn't running out of steam; it's picking up more...
Pokemon, like every other hit children's property, is about much more than a series of games, or a Saturday morning cartoon. There are most likely more ways for children to interact and experience the Pokemon world than any property in existence. While the games and television show might be what drives the brand vehicle, the other links in the chain aren't just along for the ride. They are what help to perpetuate the brand and ensure its ubiquitous nature continues.
At its peak, Nintendo's Pokemon licensing partner 4Kids Entertainment had licensed out the name to over 500 companies. In 2000 the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association named Pokemon the overall license of the year. It also won three other category awards in recognition of the brand's creative licensing and the success it was met with.
While that's all well and good, children's fads can disappear with almost shockingly sudden abruptness. America's Pokemon fever in 2000 netted Nintendo licensing awards and estimated franchise revenues of $3 billion in that year alone, but the licensing revenues and awards are given true weight with the passage of time. In 2005 it might not be a fever anymore, but Emerald has proven that Pokemon is still one of gaming's elite franchises, and the brand's other core elements including the animated TV show and collectable card game are still going strong.
Nintendo has established Pokemon's permanent position of prominence essentially by never changing the core elements of the series, so it's unlikely that future iterations will stray far from that course.
The first real, full-fledged console Pokemon RPG is hitting the GameCube this October. Set in another Dimension, Pokemon XD will allow developer Genius Sonority to tweak and twist the world as they see fit without harming the ten year's worth of history that has already been laid down. Still, besides a darker tone, it's unlikely that the game will differ too drastically from what fans already know.
Besides XD, things are surprisingly quiet on the Pokemon front. Diamond and Pearl have been rumored for the DS since the system's launch, but Nintendo thus far has remained mum. With that said, it almost seems as though the system was created with the series in mind; wireless communication, touch, and mic capabilities would benefit the Pokemon gameplay experience significantly. By now there are few left who would disagree that a Pokemon appearance on the DS (most likely coupled with a significant campaign, and special edition system) would lead to anything less than a major boon for Nintendo.