Nintendo Unleashes Full Force of Pokemon

First Games for DS, Wii Released -- Along With Movie and New TV Show

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Why Wait for the Wii Game?
That sea of yellow you're seeing beginning this week is the return of "Pokemon" -- not that he ever went away.

The Nintendo franchise is hotter than ever with consumers and is poised for a banner year, as Pikachu and 107 new digital critter friends bow this week with the launch of Nintendo's next-generation video games. The debuts of "Pokemon Diamond" and "Pokemon Pearl" for DS follow a return of the TV show on Cartoon Network -- the season starts June 4 -- plus a new movie, "Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea," just released on DVD. And that's just the beginning: 107 new characters mean that many more trading cards, toys, figures and books. Also coming this summer will be the first Pokemon game for Nintendo's still-sold-out-at-retail Wii console.
Think Local
Six-year-olds rejoice! Pokemon is unveiling 107 new characters in its upcoming show, movie and video games -- that'll translate to dozens more books, figures and toys.

A launch party at the Nintendo World Store in Manhattan was expected to draw more than 5,000 fans, and a major ad campaign, created by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA, will get wide play on TV, print and online. Nintendo has sold more than 155 million Pokemon games since its inception, but its marketing is all about capturing a new generation of fans. Kids tend to outgrow Pokemon as they hit their tween years and look for more-sophisticated role-playing games, so it's up to Nintendo to convert their little brothers and sisters into Pokemon fans.

'Getting them young'
"Pokemon has always been about getting them young," said IDC analyst Billy Pidgeon. "Nintendo has been great at bringing young kids into video games. That's true again with DS and Wii and as they're developing that mass market of a wider demographic of gamers."

"Diamond" and "Pearl" mark the first time a generation of games has been created for Nintendo's DS handheld. (Previous Pokemon games were for Game Boy.) This shows Nintendo's commitment to DS, and with 40 million DS devices in circulation -- compared with 20 million for Sony PSP, which launched at around the same time in 2005 -- they definitely have a solid base.

More than 5 million "Diamond" and "Pearl" games have been sold in Japan since their release last fall, and with an estimated half million preorders already in the U.S., Pokemon fever is likely to be re-ignited here. Beckett Media recently increased circulation of its Pokemon fan magazine from bi-monthly to monthly to accommodate the surge in interest.

Still popular
"I wouldn't say it's a resurge in Pokemon so much as it's been pretty steady all along," Mr. Pidgeon said. "It's just now they've got a new TV show and a new film, and that all leads up to the new DS Pokemon games. ... Every time they come out with a new game, people start to talk about it again and get excited about it again."

Now one of the top gaming franchises ever, Pokemon has come a long way in 10 years. Remember when one of the first broadcasts of "Pocket Monsters" in 1997 was blamed for triggering seizures in hundreds of kids in Japan? And then there was a conservative religious movement that insisted Pokemon characters were satanic representations.

"Neopets, Webkinz, all that stuff is based on Pokemon," Mr. Pidgeon said. "I still play it -- I have to for work, but I have fun, too. And I have to say, it's a really good game."
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