The amount of Pokémon talk filling up every corner the internet would leave the uninitiated to believe that it was a gaming franchise that currently rivaled the likes of Mario or Call of Duty. Just over a week ago, however, no such thought would ever occur; gaming talk about Pokémon was scarce, if not non-existant. Sure, there were discussion over past titles, mainly Black and White 2, but they were relegated to only the most devoted. Then Pokémon X & Y got announced. Now, it’s hard to go to a forum without seeing a reference to the franchise in the title. Whether it be NeoGAF or GameFAQs, threads exist not only about the upcoming 3DS titles, but Pokémon fandom in general. A website that randomly generates a Pokemon has even gone viral, plastered all over social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, with such come-ons like “Find out which Pokémon you are”. While a the 3DS release is a milestone, there’s always been regular releases in the series. So why the sudden attention?
Pokémon first came to prominence in America in the late ’90s. It was unavoidable. For the first time since Magic, trading cards were sold out everywhere, proving popular enough for even convienece stores to carry them. Kids got into fights in the schoolyard and even suspended for fighting over card trades and heated duels. Pokemon figures littered toy stores, with the cartoon dominating children’s TV ratings (and even some regular programing) on The WB. Even Burger King saw an influx of business due to the genius promotion of offering 60 random toys in their kids meals (imagine how many cows you ate to get a talking Pikachu).
Of course, nothing topped the popularity of the video games. Released for the original Game Boy (hard to believe it wasn’t two decades ago we were still gaming in black and white), Red and Blue sold millions of copies, ensuring everybody not only experienced a great RPG, but could virtually be the best that no one ever was. In-game monster trading was popular enough that it likely single-handledly supported the business of five peripgrphial makers. It was truly an inescapable phenomenon. Of course, like all fads, this one soon faded into the distance. The cartoon’s ratings dwindled, sales of the games slowed and Charzard cards went from being worth hundreds of dollars to a few bucks on a good day. The fad was gone, but the series remained popular enough to sustain itself another decade with new generations of fans. So why the sudden interest again? Because that generation grew up.
Those who were into the Pokémon craze of the late ’90s were predominately between 5-16 years of age. Those same youth are now in their late teens to late twenties; or the key demographic of gamers. Many who could once recite the Team Rocket oath on command have grown up. As continually liking what you did as a kid seemed lame, many a Diglett card was tossed into a closet and the later games ignored. Now that they are adults, however, they’re feeling nostalgic. No longer is Pokémon “lame”, but a source of childhood love and enjoyment. Pokemon being announced for the 3DS rekindled these feelings in many gamers; they saw their peers becoming excited and not only felt comfortable to do the same, but compelled. They saw the new games as an opprotunity to recapture their fond memories of playing Pokémon almost fifteen years ago.
In a way, Pokémon X & Y is a not only a new beginning for the franchise, but for its fans in general. An opportunity to gain relevance again in a world that has long passed it by. Gamers never grew tired of Pokémon – they simply grew up. We’ve always needed Pokémon in our lives and now that they’re once again a part of it, it feels pretty great.