It is nearly impossible to put in to simple terms just how influential the Pokémon franchise has been over the past twenty years. The empire includes handheld games, console releases, movies, manga, television shows and clothing lines, the franchise is a general pop culture icon. The world has been irreparably marked by the presence of Pokémon.
Tomorrow, Feb. 27 marks the 20th birthday of the beloved monster-catching phenomenon, the day that “Pokémon Red” and “Pokémon Green” (renamed “Blue” in other territories) first launched in Japan. The special day is being celebrated across the world; from parties in Japan and New York City to special release announcements, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company have been working tirelessly to celebrate their beloved franchise.
Tsunekazu Ishihara, president and CEO of the Pokémon Company, recently announced some huge news: the next two installments in the series, set to release later this year for the Nintendo 3DS hand-held system.
“Pokémon Sun” and “Moon,” the titles of the new games, will be out before the holiday season, and will release worldwide in nine different languages: Traditional and Simplified Chinese will join Japanese, English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Korean. The addition of the Chinese dialects is sure to help Nintendo corner the handheld market in China with such a powerhouse series.
"We hope that through Pokémon,” said Ishihara, “players can overcome language barriers and interact with other players from around the world."
Though the news is nothing less than exciting, there are some Pokémon fans who were hoping to see a third installment of the last generation of games, “Pokémon X” and “Y,” which came out in 2013.
The news of the new games is not the only way Nintendo is celebrating. “Pokémon Red”, “Blue” and “Yellow” are all being released tomorrow, Feb. 27 for the Nintendo 3DS, each for $9.99. Players can also buy the new Nintendo 3DS Pokémon themed bundles, with both “Pokémon Red” and “Blue” already installed. The new 3DS comes with the games and two faceplates with original box art for the games. This Pokémon 3DS bundle will be for $199.99.
"Of course,” said Ishihara, “we have many new ways for you to enjoy Pokémon this year for our 20th anniversary, but we will also endeavor to create more and more fun new experiences in the future, so please look forward to what's to come."
Pokémon first burst onto the scene on Feb. 27, 1996 due to the imaginative mind of Japanese designer, Satoshi Tajiri. Since that time the series has become the second most prosperous gaming franchise in the word, only beaten out by Mario. In twenty years, Pokémon has made $39 billion across the franchise and sold over 200 million copies of the games.
Tajiri has said in the past that the inspiration for the series came from his fascination with collecting bugs with his friends as a young boy.
"As a child,” he said, “I wanted to be an entomologist. Insects fascinated me.”
In the original Pokémon, 151 different Pokémon were included, that figure has since risen to 721 in the current titles.
The online festivities celebrating the birthday start tomorrow at 10 a.m. EST when Pokémon’s Twitch channel begins broadcasting discussions, gameplay footage and interviews. It will switch over to animated content at 6 p.m., featuring movies, TV episodes and specials for 24 hours.
With the addition of the new titles later this year, the ever-lasting mission to catch them all has becoming even more difficult - stock up on your Master Balls.