Pokemon World Championships prove worth of enduring craze

Global Business

Pokemon World Championships prove worth of enduring craze

Do you remember Pokémon Go?

The virtual reality game craze that led to millions wandering around glued to their phones and bumping into things looking for prizes?

It swept the world three years ago.

And if you thought Pokémon was a passing fad, well, the World Championships in Washington DC are challenging that idea.

CGTN’s Owen Fairclough reports.

They’ve come from 45 countries for an invitation-only tournament.

Facing off over cards and video bouts over three days – and competing for half a million dollars in shared prize money

This is the Pokémon World Championships.

13-year old Regan Retzloff is a former junior world champion at the Trading Card Games and breaks it down for me with a deft shuffle of the card deck that would make a casino dealer proud.

Regan became a champion with a Weezing deck- I’ve no idea what that means – I paid no attention to the first Pokemon craze when it was launched in 1996 and realize many of the players and spectators here are second-generation devotees.

There are no limits to the imagination at play, but there can be a darker side.

“People will cheat,” Regan said simply. “Because there is obviously money involved, and they want to win the money and there is just a lot of pressure.”

And it’s serious money.

The Pokémon phenomenon began in 1996 inspired by Japanese folklore characters immortalized by artists like Shigeru Mizuki, whose four-volume Showa history I do at least know and adore.

The launch of mobile game Pokémon Go three years ago revived the brand and helped double the stock market capitalization of owners Nintendo to more than 40 billion dollars.

Merchandising and a movie tie-in also help: the Detective Pikachu film earlier this year made more than 400 million dollars worldwide.

But Pokémon can be addictive. Police in Washington State this week found a motorist playing Pokémon Go simultaneously on eight different phones.

But the Pokémon Company is keen to stress the bonds these games can forge.

“There’s so many different things you can do different skills that it can develop,” marketing manager Elvin Gee said. “And not least of all it’s the sportsmanship when you come to these matches you see the sportsmanship that the competitors exemplify and is just fantastic.”

And as the baby napping in a stroller in the middle of the gaming room might attest, if it all gets too much for the next generation, a time out now and again can help.

Kieng IV talks Pokemon mania and future of brand’s popularity

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Kieng IV, Pokemon Go player and coach, about gaming & merchandise revenue.