For 20 years, Pokemon has been taking my money. 20 YEARS!! Holy crispy Charmander! The calculations are sound: My younger brothers were in the first wave of fans; the Spawnlings are in the current wave. And with the latest
money-sucker game now available on my iPhone (Pokemon Go)… well, that’s a lot of money to pay-out over such a sustained period of time. What could possibly appeal to two separate generations and maintain such high levels of fandom?
Pokemon Go has been active in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America for all of … Oh, about a week now. (If you were on the Beta Testing, just shut up right now).
As I write this, EG Dad has just walked in from his nightly “Pokemon hunt”. He caught me an Arbok. Hey – I had to stay home with the sleeping spawnlings. And it’s cold outside.
He is not the only one. Tonight, he met at least eight other Pokemon hunters in our suburb. Last night, he made six new friends. Lucky we live in a culturally-rich area (read: lots of art, parks, and churches). We don’t have to drive around like some (*cough, cough*… Bruce at Big Family Little Income).
EG Dad is not even a huge Pokemon fan. In fact, he was the last in EG Inc to set up his character. He wasn’t even a fan during the First Wave!! I know! Heathen! But that’s the amazing thing about Pokemon Go – it is truly bringing in a whole new range of fans. There are so many newbies, dancing around the brand, like a Venomoth trying to avoid a flame. Pokemon Go just draaaaaaaaawwws them in.
And then there are the old school fans. They are hilarious to watch. They are the ones who see the newbies hanging around a Pokestop, casually walk up to them, and then just lazily mention out loud “oh, I think I might just drop a lure module here…” They then sit down and watch those newbie-Venomoths fly in.
For most Pokemon fans, this whole craze is not surprising at all. Almost 20 years, remember? The franchise hit Down Under around 1998 – with the introduction of Pokemon Red and Blue. I think that was about the time the anime started as well.
I still remember the first major event in Australia (1999) when Mew was distributed. There were huge crowds of kids and teens, with some supervising parents trying to figure out what was going on. There was a fairly even share across genders too. The goodies on offer were appealing to any fan. My brothers scored the card and the Gameboy Pokemon for that one… and still, neither of them are willing to part with any of that loot.
Back then, it was just starting out. We bought the Gameboy and the Games. I took my brothers to the movie and we were all excited about the super-powerful Mew. We bought a few cards and learnt the game. Then I left for university, and they had to buy their own cards (hey – I had text books to pay for!!).
Fast-forward 20 years and they are still fans. Okay, so they aren’t tuning in for every episode. But the youngest made it on to the Beta Testing (we do not speak HIS name). And they both still have their card collection in special folders filed away on the shelf. And when they travel for work, they still take their original Gameboys, with either Pokemon Red or Blue. I kid you not.
What is the appeal? Exactly the same as the appeal to our spawnlings: innocent aesthetics with the underlying cut-throat strategy. My brothers would have been 8 and 10 years old when Pokemon first came out. They adored it – cutesy little characters, battling it out for fame and honour (questionable conduct really), and able to transfer easily between Gameboy and card game. Confession: I was 19 and I was enamoured as well.
Let’s jump to the current generation who, in my opinion, have a far higher saturation than my brothers at the same age. Sinister (10yo) and Nefarious (7yo) both have access to the TV shows; the movies; the books (manga and reference guides); the stuffed toys; the card games; the online games; and the Gameboy games (both original Gameboys and recently purchased 2DS). Even Zaltu (2yo) has access to the toys. Her favourite is Pikachu.
After spending so much money on with my brothers back in the 90s, I refuse to be caught up in the same manner of expenditure with my spawnlings. I’ll be the first to admit I was excited about my kids loving something I was familiar with. However, I had dreams of my brothers partaking in a little Pokemon exchange ceremony with the spawnlings, and hand down their collection to the next generation.
If there is one thing that has NOT changed in 20 years of Pokemon, it is the competitive nature it instils in all the players. There will be no passing of the flame from First Wave Fans to Current Fans – Hell no!! Do you have any idea how HARD we had to work to catch the elusive Growlith in Pokemon Blue?!? Good grief, sis! Let them build character!! Make them battle, like we did. Kids these days… <blah, blah, blah>
Of course, kids these days have access to Legendary Pokemon with much higher stats and hard-hitting powers even I can’t keep track of. When the spawnlings challenged their uncles to a duel, with the chance of winning some of the older cards, I thought this would be an easy win. Help cut my costs.
How do the new cards compare with the slow-build of strategy of 20 years experience?
… Not as well as I hoped.
I am still paying for Pokemon in this household.
Maybe some day I will be considered the ‘cool Grandma’. When the next generation starts their Pokemon addiction, I’ll know exactly what to spend my money on. Again.
And just to show you are not alone, you really should read Bruce’s take on Pokemon Go (Blog: Big Family Little Income). If he can make it work as a positive family activity, then it MUST be a good thing.