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The Dose: Pokémon’s evolution over the years to catch ‘em all

The Dose: Pokémon’s evolution over the years to catch ‘em all

The Dose: Pokémon’s evolution over the years to catch ‘em all
June 03
17:41 2016

Matt Payne | Features Editor


Children everywhere begged their parents for battery-powered devices that fit inside their pockets, loyal to the calling of mere 10-year-olds venturing into tall grass to encounter wild creatures. Even Time Magazine would warn of the international pandemic with their Nov. 22, 1999 cover story to alert parents to stay diligent upon this unyielding phenomenon from Japan.

I’m speaking none other than the Japanese launch of Pokémon Red and Green, the harbingers of Pokémon Red and Blue localized for the states in ’98.

Now, 20 years after nothing short of a global dynasty was wrought by a flying orange lizard with its tail on fire, you can still find fans clamoring one day after fresh news has broken from the very same dynasty.

With #Pokemon20 hype and the latests editions in Pokémon Sun and Moon on the conveyor belt – and more – the empire is strong as ever and won’t be ending any time soon. How exactly has this aging franchise continued to enamor loyal fans and attract newer generations year after year?

It’s a charm that few video game series have been able to manifest, even considering several comparable, new and successful franchises like Yo-Kai Watch and Skylanders gunning for a spot in the Hall of Fame. Since the Nintendo 3DS launched in 2011, Pokémon X and Y remain the top-selling titles on the 3DS platform worldwide with more than 14 million copies sold; Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have fetched third-place with a modest 11 million copies sold worldwide. Since its humble beginning as Pocket Monsters, the franchise has always been Nintendo’s ace in the hole for the handheld market and sits pretty in its throne above all third-party titles and in-house blockbusters – including The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing.

We’ve come a long way from dealing holographic trading cards in day care, and international hype is stronger than ever before. But just how are people all over the world still recognizing that cute electric mouse?

What level are we at?

Pokémon is a lot like Disney.

I have played every single entry into the main series from when I first received my own copy of Pokémon Red on my sixth birthday party at Putt-Putt. To this day, I make friends by geeking out whenever substantial Pokémon news breaks. Much in the same way of how “What’s your favorite Disney movie?” is a reliable ice-breaker at parties, Pokémon brings the same magic twinkle into the eyes of my generation that speculation of the 2017 “Beauty and the Beast” remake will. They are two hallmark subjects of fandom in their own respects.

Nintendo has been able to strike gold with Pokémon with the same approach Disney takes with its yearly movies: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What keeps both of these franchises well-known and accepted in pop culture, however, is their ambivalent approach of keeping up with new times while also respecting tradition. And much of this is achieved by respecting the Digital Age of social media.

Pokémon is about cooperation and friendship. You’ve always had to hit up your friends if you were to have any hope of completing the Pokédex, whether with Link Cables or global Wi-Fi trades. Pokémon’s immersion into the social media sphere has only amplified this. If you were to tell 6-year-old me that it would eventually be possible to have a Pokémon battle with somebody in Taiwan and another with somebody in Germany immediately 10 minutes after, all from the comfort of my living room, you would’ve turned me and the Pikachu following close behind me over on our heads.

Hashtags like #PokemonSunMoon and #TeamLitten are gateways into nothing short of millions of Twitter users everywhere keen in hype over the worldwide November 2016 release of the latest titles. And hell, one of the new starters is Litten: a fire cat. Little dude is No. 1, a cat, and, No. 2, has a name beginning with “Lit-” in 2016. Try and slide into my DMs and tell me it wasn’t designed around meme culture.

Like no game ever was

What should also be considered is Nintendo’s foray into mobile gaming on iOS and Android platforms. First with Miitomo, which is comparable to The Sims, but with a kiss of Nintendo’s signature foolery, and soon this year in Pokémon: GO. Anybody will be able to download the free-to-play app and utilize their phone’s location services to virtually encounter a Pokémon they can battle, catch and trade – just like what used to be exclusive to Nintendo’s own handheld devices. An official Pokémon game on your iPhone has long been something of lofty expectations, yet so desired by many fans.

Why should anybody care though?

Whether it’s Pokémon, Candy Crush Saga or Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a game that enthuses countless veteran fans and new fans alike to potentially cough up dollars for in-app purchases – or even hundreds of dollars for a reliable, speedy smartphone with a solid battery that can take on hours of play – is the catalyst for waves in both pop culture and the economy.

Nintendo has smartened to the excitement that a fresh set of roughly 100 new Pokémon can bring and wants to dish it out as fast as possible, and Pokémon Sun and Moon will release in lieu of the expected sequel to Pokémon X and Y. Their classic formula of two similar titles simultaneously released with a sequel that follows a few years after is a thing of the past.

What remains is the thrill of the “catch ‘em all” mantra, and in a world where Poké Maniacs have Wi-Fi-connected 3DSes, social media and soon an app to make Pokémon encounters a seamless addition to casual iPhone browsing, don’t expect the hype train to derail any time soon.

Featured Image: Courtesy | The Pokémon Company

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