Why is Pokemon Still So Popular?

Pokémon is one of the biggest brands in the world and is approaching the fourth decade in which it has captured audiences and dominated the world of entertainment. The eighth generation was released worldwide late in 2019 with Pokémon Sword and Shield. Fans online were vocal about the game’s lack of a national Pokédex – meaning some of the creatures present in other games were missed out of the new titles. While this PR storm could have jeopardized the game’s release (it didn’t), it shows just how invested fans are in the franchise. It exemplifies how much they want to safeguard the integrity of the Pokémon universe – even from the producers themselves. But, why are we still playing Pokémon?

Adaptability

One reason for Pokémon’s continued success is that the franchise is constantly adapting. This can be seen through Pokémon Go, which remains a popular game and prevalent drain on our phones’ batteries. It had 55 million new installs in 2019, which was its most profitable year, achieving $900 million in player spending. The game brought in $206.5 million in revenue in its first month of operating back in 2016, changing the way we saw mobile gaming. This is significant as an example of the franchise’s ability to adapt to their target player.

The game is broad enough to appeal to most demographics, and hosting the game on a platform everyone already had, with no extra purchases, led to a surge in popularity. Each console generation sees Pokémon adapting to how players are wanting to engage. The latest game on the Nintendo Switch really cemented the franchise as a big-hitter in the industry, with it being the first TV console-based title so far in the franchise.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Nostalgia

As well as gaining new fans by providing easy entry points for those who have never played before, Pokémon is also able to retain its players. This is done effectively and consistently by the games utilizing ‘retro’ motifs and narrative from previous members of the Pokemon series. Nostalgia is powerful in gaming and reminds players of the halcyon days of playing in their youth. It is a tactic used often to attract players to a new style of gaming, gameplay, or console.

For instance, in 2018, Sony Interactive Entertainment released a compendium of classic PS1 games with the PlayStation Classic, and remastered Spyro and Crash to bring them up to date. They also announced some back-compatibility for the PlayStation 5 later in 2020. Furthermore, the theme of nostalgia is also prevalent at some online casinos, with titles such as the Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and Batman available in the form of themed slots, allowing those new to the gaming format to ease themselves in with a franchise they are familiar with. While several arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and Sonic were released in retro-format for mobile gamers. Keeping the games looking as though they still belonged in an arcade brought back memories, while the smartphone gameplay was fast and easy to access (no need for quarters!)

Gameplay

The gameplay of Pokémon is also part of the reason we are still engaging. We know that there are potentially hours of content to wade through, which can be extended as long as you want. Some have wracked up hundreds of hours play time, while others enjoy quickly getting through it. The game can be played at different difficulty levels with self-imposed limitations, and requires some level of strategic thinking and tactics in order to successfully get to the end.

The fact that people know what to expect from a Pokémon game and know that there will be a lot to engage with is part of the reason for it remaining popular. Newer games are unknown quantities. As each generation is released, more features are added, such as the ability to play with others and the 3D elements. The Switch and its functionalities are just another example of how the gameplay has harnessed the technology of the minute, while essentially staying the same. The gameplay essentially remains the same, while adding elements and artwork that reflects the modern era of gaming.

Pokémon is likely to continue to be popular. Not only does each new release appeal to the bottom-end of their target audience, but the game is good at retaining players. The adaptability to the player’s tastes means the game is always relevant, and the nostalgia factor means that people have a favorable view of the games they played and enjoyed. While the style of gameplay makes the game reliable and means players know what to expect.

Tom Parillo

Tom Parillo

I am interested in all things technology, especially automation, robotics and tech that helps change how society will live in the future.
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