Every year, McDonald’s in Japan releases a calendar – a Pokemon calendar. It always features Pokemon popular among the kiddies at the time. This year, things are a little different. This year’s calendar is all about Yokai Watch, the new reigning champion of Japanese children’s games. Yokai Watch is a “Pokemon-like” created by the well-loved Level-5, creator of Professor Layton and Ni no Kuni. Yokai Watch has yet to make the jump to the West, but it is taking Japanese school kids by storm. It’s everywhere, from convenience stores, to trains and schools. It even has its own anime and manga series.
So it’s not entirely surprising that it will be the face of this year’s McDonald’s kids calendar. But what does this mean for Pokemon, a name that has been a fixture in households for so many years? Is this a death knell for Pokemon – first decreasing in popularity on its home turf before slowly sinking into irrelevancy further afield? It might seem that way, but there’s a lot to suggest that Pokemon is resilient enough to compete against newer fads for many years to come.
Pokemon is in an interesting position. It has the rare ability to appeal to returning players, using the irresistible draw of nostalgia. The success of the Heart Gold and Soul Silver remakes, and, most recently, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is a true testament to this. Gamers in their twenties and thirties were the target audience for Pokemon when it was first released way back in 1998. They started playing Pokemon as children and pre-teens during the initial Pokemon boom. Kids were crazy about Pokemon to the point where some schools banned it because students could focus on little else. It was an exciting time to be a kid, and now these kids are adults with a strong tie to their childhood, to those recesses spent fixated on Game Boy screens.
Moreover, Pokemon still manages to captivate fresh generations of baby gamers. Its gameplay is simple enough (at least at surface level) for young people to enjoy. Throw in cute characters and an addictive social component and it’s not hard to see how kids will continue to eat it up. In turn, those kids build up their own Pokememories and so the cycle continues.