If you were between the ages of 5 and 18 in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, you probably made an effort to catch ’em all. The trend of Pokémon took the world by storm, as children of all ages began obsessing over being the best there ever was.
What made Pokémon so popular, to the point that most elementary schools, including mine, outlawed Pokémon cards, usually citing anti-gambling rules to justify it? What about catching and battling little creatures was so appealing that parents would wait in hour-long lines for a few booster packs? I have a few theories.
1) Marketing – This seems to be most obvious reason Pokémon dominated the youth market. The marketing scheme of this entire franchise was just brilliant: to absolutely saturate the industry, hitting all major ancillary markets like TV, toys, cards, clothes, and video games. Simulation rarity of the cards made children everywhere willing to sell their souls for a Charizard. Everywhere we turned, we saw Ash and Pikachu.
2) Association with Nintendo – Pokémon became popular amidst a sort of video game Renaissance. While the N64 was changing the face of the gaming industry,Pokémon was at its forefront. With titles like “Pokémon Snap,” “Pokémon Stadium,” and the interactive “Hey, You! Pikachu!” children could not only watch the action, they could control the action. The ability to transfer data from a Game Boy Color copy of the quest game to “Pokémon Stadium” made it even more appealing to youth, as they could now customize their team’s lineup, utilizing moves acquired on the handheld.
3) Individuality Through Conformity – I know, it seems paradoxical. But think about it. Perhaps what really made Pokémon the business giant that it was was the quest for individuality. The target market, obviously, was children and young adults, an age group in which members are trying to find their own identities within the culture of their peers. The idea of conformity in Pokémon is a given: basically, if you didn’t collect cards, you were weird and probably no one talked to you. However, I believe that Pokémon also helped its audience establish a sense of individuality, as the game was fairly customizable. I was always a fan of Psychic and Fire types, but someone else might have been a collector primarily of Fighting and Electric types. Further, maybe I wanted only 1st Edition, holographics, or I sought the entire Jungle set. Maybe I actually played the game and had a lot of Energy and Trainer cards… wait, no one ever actually played the card game. Regardless, within the broader context of conformity, Pokéfans were able to mold a greater fad into something that suited them personally.
4) Quality – Obviously, any marketing ploy ever wants the same results as Pokémon. They strive to be on top of the market, toppling competitors left and right. But the reason some other potential fads and trends may have failed is because they lacked simple, plain quality. Pokémon is hokey, there’s no doubt about it. The show is laughable, some of the video games were downright awful, but it has that magical, epileptic seizure-inducing (look it up) quality that cannot be matched. It’s timeless. As a staple of my generation’s childhood, it will always be remembered and loved.
You know you still have your Ancient Mew in a case.