Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu and Pokémon Let’s Go: Evee sold a combined total of three million copies in its debut week in late November last year.
That little number made Pokémon Let’s Go the best-selling Nintendo Switch game at launch to date; it even sold more in its opening week than those other Nintendo record-setters, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.
What this means, is that the Pokémon franchise – one that saw a powerful kick into the ranks of the most successful children’s brands in the last four years, thanks in no small part to the success of Pokémon Go and the resulting surge in revenue to a tune of $145.6 million for The Pokémon Company in 2016 – is still very much at large.
And according to the licensing team behind this iconic anime-inspired franchise, 2019 is set to be another landmark year for the Pokémon brand.
For a start, it is now awaiting the release of its first-ever Pokémon live action movie this May, and the project has pulled in some pretty big Hollywood names. How big? Well how about Ryan Reynolds, Rita Ora, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy kind of big?
Already, fans the world over are champing at the bit to witness Pikachu in his live-action debut. The trailer garnered 140 million global views in the first 24 hours of launch. And that’s not the only big launch for Pokémon over the coming 12 months.
The popular Pokémon Trading Card Game new mechanic, Tag Team – pairing two Pokémon together on one card – will be introduced in Pokémon: Sun & Moon – Team UP, the latest expansion to launch this February.
Oh, and then there will of course be a supporting movie tie-in TCG expansion to boot.
Later this year, the next introduction to Pokémon’s core role-play game series will arrive on Nintendo Switch, the Pokémon World Championships will take place in Washington DC in August and there will be swathes of new licensed Pokémon product landing this year.
“The launch of Pokémon: Let’s Go is a great example of a title designed to bring new players into the video game universe, while also appealing to the core,” Mathieu Galante, licensing director EMEA at The Pokémon Company, tells Licensing.biz.
“The release of the Nintendo Switch exclusive titles last November helped make Pokémon one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, with more than 324 million games sold worldwide.”
The success – not just of the last year, but the preceding three before that, and the generation of fans that pre-date even the launch of Pokémon Go – has allowed the Pokémon Company to build on its already burgeoning licensing portfolio with deals spanning fashion, accessories and yes, toys.
“We have seen a phenomenal growth in licensees and TCG over the last few years and are looking to continue in the same vein,” continues Galante.
“Our exciting new partnership with Wicked Cool Toys made an award-winning start with their first Pokémon master toy range earning Toy Fair Editor’s Choice.
“The most detailed Pokémon toy range yet, it has now rolled out internationally and will launch an expanded range in 2019, including movie tie-in products with added retail support. While it is hard to predict growth for toy sales, the level of interest in the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu movie trailer is very promising, so we are expecting some major growth in movie products.”
With the film already boosting excitement across the retail landscape, Galante believes that other licensed products should also benefit.
“We are particularly excited about our puzzles with Ravensburger, construction toys with Mattel and Nanoblocks, special edition Monopoly from Winning Moves, electronics with OTL and TeknoFun and Party Goods with Amscam and Rubie’s.”
The Pokémon Company’s focus thus far, has been to continue working with its existing partners for the upcoming movie tie-in products.
“The film should raise the brand’s profile even higher, which can only be positive for retailers,” Galante says.
“Following 2018’s successful promotions in major stores including Selfridges and Hamleys, we are working on a strong retail programme with toy specialists and mass market retailers across Europe.”
Last year, the company run an exclusive two-day campaign with Hamleys’ flagship store on Regent Street. According to Galante, the activity – which included meet and greets with Pikachu and Eevee, product giveaways and a giant festive snow globe for selfies – led to “a significant uplift in sales.”
The branded display gondola that took pride of place in the store, certainly helped too.
Meanwhile, in the technological stakes, the Pokémon Company appears to have all bases covered.
“Pokémon appeals to a very wide demographic and its four pillars provide different entry points,” says Galante.
“In addition to the well-established TCG, video game and animation, our new mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular, targeting kids along with young adults who used to play Pokémon 20 years ago, and there are more to come.”
The brand’s strategy – it would seem – is to constantly innovate. It’s a sure way, says Galante, of keeping fans loyal and attracting new ones and it seems a sound strategy to adopt; ensuring engagement across the ages.
Having weathered 20 years at retail already, the firm and the brand recognises the importance of evolving with the times.
“Retail has been challenging and consumer habits are changing fast. We need to remain relevant to new generations of kids by constantly re-inventing ourselves – which we have been doing for 20 years and will be doing for the next 20,” concludes Galante.