Pokemon - still a global favorite at 20 years old
Pokemon is a world-famous media franchise spanning multiple genres, from toys and games to anime. The name is a shortening of "Pocket Monsters" - the original Japanese title, derived from the fact that a captured Pokemon would fit in your pocket. The first Pokemon property was Pokemon Red and Green for the original Game Boy. The Pokemon anime premiered on April 1, 1997, and the game and anime together soon gathered a global following, igniting a worldwide Pokemon craze. To date, the Pokemon games have seen global sales of over 280 million units, the anime has been broadcast in 95 countries and regions, and over 21.5 billion Pokemon trading cards have been shipped worldwide, leading to a global Pokemon market valued in excess of 4 trillion yen. Pokemon sparked renewed interest with the 2016 release of mobile game Pokemon Go, which broke multiple download and revenue records and became a much-discussed topic around the world.
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In the world of Pokemon, Pokemon Trainers find and capture the eponymous creatures, making them their partner in battling other Pokemon for sport. In the games, the player initially receives their first Pokemon from a Pokemon researcher, and then battles and captures the various Pokemon found in the region. Although the story also captures imaginations, a key part of the appeal of Pokemon games is playing with friends, exchanging Pokemon or battling each other directly. The Pokemon anime tells the story of Ash Ketchum and his journey towards becoming a Pokemon Master, aided by his partner Pikachu. During initial production, the anime producers wanted to make sure the title would appeal to boys and girls alike and reportedly chose to make Pikachu the featured Pokemon to further this aim.
From the first generation of 151 Pokemon, over the years the list has expanded significantly, with a total of over 800 Pokemon making an appearance to date. Riding the wave of popularity caused by both the game and the anime, a wide selection of tie-in toys and other items were released. Over 200 companies hold licenses to produce Pokemon-related goods, including Bandai, Takara Tomy and more. Pokemon plushies have proven especially popular, with limited-edition Pokemon Center Original plushies frequently becoming rare items sought after by collectors. The Pokemon Trading Card Game has also proved a lasting hit worldwide, with rare cards fetching premium prices.
Pokemon celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016, and shows no signs of slowing down. The internet now allows Pokemon fans across the world to connect with each other and trade Pokemon or do battle anywhere, at any time. It's safe to say that the hit combination of appealing characters and freedom to enjoy the series how you want is the key to the enduring global popularity of the franchise.