The Pokemon video game franchise has been around since 1996 in Japan and 1999 in the UK, and it shows no signs of relenting any time soon. Like many of my friends, I grew up playing the games, watching the television series and buying the cards but never learning how to play with them properly. Go into your average toy shop today and the games, cards and toys (albeit more flashy and expensive than I ever remember them being) will still be there and children are buying them.
Seeing as I’m turning 23 on Saturday, I should probably be embarrassed by the fact that I have a copy of Pokemon White Version 2 and am more than likely to buy the sixth generation, X and Y, which comes out later this year. However, the fact that new generations of the video games keep being released and are marketed to us ‘oldies’ in a way that screams “look, you can play with all your favourite 150 Pokemon! Don’t you want to be a child again?” means that there are plenty of people in their twenties who still play them. It’s the same as the My Little Pony or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise – marketing on nostalgia, especially through the internet, is very effective. We may complain that “the new stuff sucks” but we’re still loyal to the brand and continue to fork out money for the latest releases.
So, why am I even writing about Pokemon with the stock title ‘it will never die’? Well, Nintendo announced today that Pokemon is coming to the Wii U playform! With the exception of the PSP, it seems that every video game console since the original Game Boy has had either a Pokemon ‘new generation’ instalment or spin-off game. There are probably a dozen reasons for this and I’m not about to write a long history on Pokemon. Instead, I thought I’d flag up what makes this new game – Pokemon Rumble U – potentially mark a new direction for the franchise.
The Wii U console uses the GamePad, which acts as a separate touch screen that enables players to interact with the main console and game. The best example of how this technology is currently used is the Skylanders series, where players place different figurines on the board which are then read, pop up on the main screen and used in battle. Of course, you buy the figures separately… so it’s a big money maker.
Not much has been revealed about Pokemon Rumble U but there’s sadly no confirmation of a release outside of Japan to date. The Pokemon Rumble spin-off series is effectively a brawler series, has been around for a while and, based on reviews, is actually not that remarkable as a game series itself. That said, I don’t think it has the potential to make a splash on the Wii U even though games are certainly getting more interactive and gamers famously love their add-ons and collectables. Consoles like the Wii U are still ‘gimmicky’ and very expensive… and it will take a particularly impressive game to encourage people to buy it in their millions.
Now, I’m not bashing this game before it even comes out by any means. As I said before, people are loyal to the Pokemon series and, if they have the console ready, they will more than likely buy the game. What’s missing is the “oh my god, I feel like I’m in the game!” factor and we are definitely a few years behind that technology. Virtual reality glasses and holograms… that would make the Pokemon series ridiculously interactive (and fun, too). Walk past someone carrying a memory card with their Pokemon on it, put on your future glasses and have a proper battle! Isn’t that everyone’s ultimate childhood fantasy?
Anyway, the reason I say Pokemon will never die is because there will always be children (and adults who wish they were still children) to buy the games and there is no shortage of consoles for spin-off titles. What’s missing is that true ‘wow’ factor, the feeling of being ‘in’ the game. Obviously the console screen prevents this, no matter how addictive a game might be, and maybe this will never change. Still, I like to think that, if I have children, they will have their holographic tenth generation Pokemon to play with, which will mean they can get outside, get some fresh air and stop messing up my damn living room!