Pokémon 2oth Anniversary Thoughts


I’m a bit surprised people made as much a big deal over the 20th anniversary of Pokémon as they did. I played Pokémon Blue a lot back in the day but only dabbled in the versions that came after. This anniversary did get me thinking about how the franchise has lasted 20 years though when I remember people in the late 90’s saying it would be a short lived fad like Beanie Babies or Tamagotchis.

Basically, it was all in how Nintendo packaged the game for its target audience. There exist video games that do what Pokémon does, probably in a deeper way too, and probably before Pokémon existed. The difference is Nintendo got it all to work in a format simple enough to be understood by grade school students and played on an 8-bit portable system with two buttons and a directional pad.

When Red and Blue first came out I remember feeling a sense of newness in them. Looking back it felt like arguably the last big innovative franchise Nintendo came up with. The reason people like me felt that newness is possibly because the idea of deep role-playing games on handheld systems wasn’t common until after Pokémon. I’ve said before that Pokémon may have begun the trend of handheld RPGs, but it also might have introduced a whole generation of kids to how RPGs work.

Part of that simplicity was making the collection aspect the entire point of the game. One of my weird pet peeves with RPGs is actually the inclusion of monster-capturing systems, yet I don’t have a problem with Pokémon itself. I think it’s because I don’t like seeing those systems included on top of what are already complete conventional RPGs. To me it feels like extra filling, where Pokémon is a relatively lean game, if nothing else.

Another thing people tend to overlook is the popularity of Pokémon compared to other RPGs. According to Wiki, Skyrim and Diablo III are the only RPGs to ever match or outsell any mainline Pokémon games. That really puts into perspective the relative popularity of RPGs in the global market, which Pokémon has transcended.

That’s all I really wanted to say. I hadn’t seen other people talk about that significance and I was never able to convince anybody that I’m the one to write an article about it on some big site. It’s just a little something to think about on this anniversary.


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