Pokémon Go is a phenomenon. A huge phenomenon. A phenomenon no one saw coming. But really, should we be that surprised? The Pokémon series of games are some of the most popular of all time. Pokémon was first launched in Japan in 1996 and has been consistently updated with new generations for 20 years. Its popularity is almost unrivalled. In fact, as of February 2016, over 200 million units from the main series have been sold. Pokémon Go, though, that has been truly astonishing.
Pokémon Go was launched on 6 July and quickly jumped to the top of the various App Store charts across both Android and IOS. Its popularity was so huge that the game became the most active mobile game in the United States with 21 million active users. It’s been trending on Twitter, mentioned on various news stations across the world, featured in national newspapers, heavily videoed for YouTube, and talked about across radio and podcasts. Its launch has, to all intents and purposes, been an unmitigated success—although server issues and crashes have also been widespread. To put into perspective the success of Pokémon Go, Nintendo, who only have a 33% stake in the Pokémon series, saw their share prices rocket by 70%. Practically overnight Pokémon Go has added £6bn to Nintendo’s market value. It has significantly, if not totally, contributed to Nintendo’s biggest weekly share price gain in more than 30 years.
Pokémon Go’s success could come down to many factors; the social media aspect, the popularity of the series as a whole or the augmented reality gameplay. I think the major reason Pokémon Go has been a success, though, is the nostalgia effect. A lot of the people playing the game haven’t played a Pokémon game for years. If you were ten, for example, when the original Pokémon games were released, you would be thirty now and possibly have grown out of gaming, or have children or a job not conducive to a 60+ hour RPG on a handheld console. That’s where Pokémon Go’s success lies, whether it’s nostalgia or curiosity, Pokémon Go is bringing back lapsed Pokémon gamers.
The fact that Pokémon Go, at the moment, only includes the original 151 Pokémon is a major reason for the nostalgia effect. You wouldn’t play the game if you didn’t recognise the Pokémon you wanted to catch, so the fact the original 151 Pokémon are the pocket monsters you try to catch produces a game that appeals to both the nostalgic and the aficionado. The original 151 Pokémon are also widely acknowledged to be the best from a design point of view. The designs of Pokémon have gone down ever since the original games, to the point where some of the new iterations are simply not good.
The huge success of Pokémon Go proves that people are as in love with the franchise as they have ever been. It also points out to Nintendo that the appeal of the original 151 Pokémon is also peaking. As such I think it’s time Nintendo brought back the original Pokémon in a game of their own. In an ideal world, this would be on a brand new continent, possibly modelled on Kanto, with an all-new storyline around the tried and tested RPG formula. Being able to traverse a new land with a Bulbasaur, Squirtle or Charmander by your side again might just entice former Pokémon fans back for one last hurrah, and be a good introduction for the younger generation of players to some of the more obscure, yet equally iconic, original Pokémon– think Mr. Mime, Jynx or Lickitung.
It’s been 20 years since the original games and 12 years since they were remade for the now-defunct GameBoy Advance so a lot of Pokémon’s intended younger audience may not have even played any version of the original games. If Nintendo were not willing to go back to create a whole new story then surely they need to update/remake/remaster the original games for the latest hardware. That would probably be far more appealing to Nintendo because they can continue to go forward with the franchise but also not allow its history to become just that, history.
Currently, we are in the age of the remaster. Plenty of classic, and not so classic, games are being remastered for the latest hardware across all companies, The Crash Bandicoot collection and the BioShock collection are but two. We are also in the age of the remake, Final Fantasy VII, for example. Nintendo has already shown their thinking in this unique age with the unveiling of the Classic Mini NES which has been programmed with some classic games like Zelda and Donkey Kong and has been well received by fans. With the success of Pokémon Go, they have to replicate that ideal with the original Pokémon. This is their best chance, the precedent of the remake/remaster is there and so is the interest in the product of the potential remake/remaster. They shouldn’t waste it.