A Study of Pokémon Popularity
Nintendo's Marketing Strategies and Techniques Part I
Part 1 | Part 2
Pokémon is marketed by Nintendo, the giant gaming company. In this research we plan to find out what
marketing strategies or techniques Nintendo uses to market pokémon.
Firstly, we will have to look at the company marketing pokémon. Nintendo is one of the giant companies
in the area of new-generation consoles gaming, especially in big consumers' market like Japan and the
United States. It produces the consoles needed to run many types of games, and pokémon is one of those
games. As Nintendo has had much success before pokémon came out, it has a good reputation and did not
have many problems getting consumers to accept its products.
Next, we should look at the game being marketed. Pokémon is an RPG (role playing game), and it is
predicted that 30 hours is needed to 'complete' the game, as in defeating the last, most powerful trainers.
However, some children prefer to refer to completing the game as catching all the pokémon in the game.
The game was released in Japan in 1995 for the Nintendo Game Boy (blue and green version). Since then
there have been new releases of more extensions in the games. These are known as product line extensions.
Since many new versions and extensions of the game have been released, it shows that the first two versions
of pokémon were very popular.
The Nintendo Game Boy, before pokémon was released, was actually out of date then. Nintendo, at that time,
was focusing mainly on the Nintendo 64. When many Game Boy owners found out Pokémon was released, they
bought the game as it gave them a chance to use their Game Boy.
By 1999, worldwide sales of the Gameboy have increased by 250% since pokémon was released. Although the
Gameboy unit does not function as effectively as compared to the other consoles, it is much less expensive.
While the other consoles giants like Sony or Sega chose to improve their most popular consoles, Nintendo
has focused on the Game Boy, allowing it to market the console and the games that come with it easily, as
no strong competition to the Game Boy is present.
Thirdly, we will have to look at competitors. There are three types of competitors, and they are current,
potential and substitute competitors, and all of them pose a threat to Nintendo's sales and profits,
either at present or in the future.
Current competitors are competitors who produce the same line of products as your company does, therefore
trying to attract your customers away from you.
Nintendo has few current competitors in the consoles market as investing in it requires large amount of
funds and only big companies have the ability to invest in this market. An example of a current competitor
of Nintendo's would be Sony. Sony produces the Sony PlayStation, and recently the Sony PlayStation2. There
are many famous games that run on these 2 consoles. An example is the Final Fantasy series produced by
However, pokémon runs on the Nintendo Game Boy, and the Game Boy is a hand-held devise incapable of
generating more than 60 colours. It appeared in the 1980s and is quite old. The graphics generated by the
Game Boy is very poor, and certainly cannot be compared to the Sony PlayStation. However, it is because
of this reason that it has no current competitors.
Although the Game Boy cannot be compared to other consoles, it is much less costly than the other consoles
and therefore is attractive to consumers who want to spend less.
Another reason of the Game Boy's success is that it is portable and can be easily carried about.
Therefore, a consumer can enjoy a game on the Game Boy just about anywhere.
Potential competitors are competitors who are not much of a threat currently but may in future become
current competitors. Again, Nintendo does not have many potential competitors. As I have mentioned
earlier, the consoles market requires large amount of funds to invest in. However, few companies produce
any hand-held devises and these companies are not very big or wealthy.
Although there are few competitors to the Game Boy, there are competitors to the game, Pokémon itself.
An example of a current competitor to pokémon is the Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, produced and
marketed by Nintendo. The game is part of a series of six games narrating the Legend of Zelda. This game
is designed to run on the Game Boy Color.
As there has been much success with the previous three titles in the game, this game was much sought
after. Therefore, it is a current competitor to the game, as it attracts consumers away to buy it instead
However, using superior marketing tactics, Pokémon was able to sell more units than any other game
Nintendo has ever created.
Substitute competitors are competitors who do not produce the same line of products as you do, but take
business away from you because their products achieve the same as your products.
There are many substitute competitors to Pokémon. Pokémon's main purpose is to entertain, but there are
many games with that purpose too. An example would be the Final Fantasy series by Squaresoft. However,
most of these games are targeted at older audience and therefore young consumers are attracted to buy
Many of these substitute competitors can also be current competitors.
Fourthly, we should look at the audience targeted by Nintendo. Nintendo originally planned to market
pokémon to young children from about six to twelve years old. However, since the game came out, many
children older than that age group, have also started playing pokémon.
The majority of children playing pokémon are however still within the targeted age group.
The Important Factors
Fifthly, we should look at the 4Ps, factors that control the popularity of a product. The 4Ps are product,
price, place and promotions.
The product has already been introduced above. However, I shall elaborate. Pokémon is an RPG, a role
playing game, that requires about 30 hours of game play to be completed. It involves a young kid
travelling around the world trying to catch all the pokémon (pocket monsters) there are in the world. On
the way, he is challenged to defeat the Elite Four, four pokémon trainers who are considered the best in
the world. The young kid then vows to become a great Pokémon Master by capturing all the pokémon and
defeating the Elite Four.
The game was released in 1995 for the Nintendo Gameboy. Players can even link up their Game Boys and pit
their pokémon against each other's. Finally, there are movies and many cartoon episodes based on the
pokémon adventure. Books narrating the pokémon adventure written by Tracey West and adapted from the
cartoons and movies have also arrived on the market.
One of the reasons pokémon is popular among children is that many children can identify with and relate
to the game. For example, a pokémon such as Growlithe looks like a puppy.
Currently the game is in its maturity stage, where there are stable costs, stable sales and stable profits
for the company.
Pokémon had a relatively short introduction stage, lasting roughly half a year, where there are high
costs, low sales and low profits as compared to other products. That is because pokémon is released and
marketed by a popular company, Nintendo and this makes it less risky for consumers to try the game out.
The growth stage of pokémon is also very short, lasting for about two years, during which more and more
people buy pokémon. After the growth stage is the maturity stage which is what pokémon is going through
Finally, there is the decline stage when there is declining costs (less produces), leading to declining
sales and profits. Pokémon is, unfortunately, nearing the decline stage. We can see that from the many
product line extensions like Pokémon Stadium or Pokémon Snap that Nintendo is trying to keep the game
popular for as long as possible. Also we can see that Nintendo is introducing the game to more and more
countries. These shows that Nintendo is trying to keep pokémon in the maturity stage so as to profit as
much as possible.
The pricing for the game is quite reasonable, cheaper than other Game Boy games. However, critics have
pointed out that a player would have to buy both versions of the pokémon game because not all the 150
pokémon could be found in just 1 version.
Nintendo has argued that it introduced two different versions containing different pokémon but the
same story line because it wanted to introduce a friendship theme to the game. This can be achieved when
2 players have different versions of the game, and they trade pokémon to each other through a Link Cable
connected to the Game Boys.
The factor of place usually refers to the distribution system, but to make it sound nicer as the '4Ps',
marketers call it 'place'. The distribution system of Nintendo should be very efficient, as it is a large
company with lots of funds. Furthermore, any problems along the distribution system would cost money,
time and manpower.
Finally, about promotions of the game. Promotions consist of advertising, sales and sales promotion.
Advertising is to create something with a positive attitude to tell consumers to buy a product. Nintendo
advertises pokémon through magazines, the Internet, books and such. The best form of advertising Nintendo
uses is through the Internet.
From what we have found, Nintendo has many advertisements through the Internet. It also has a webpage
dedicated solely to pokémon. Besides that, many pokémon players who want to share their experience with
other players have created webpages for that purpose. Furthermore, there are pokémon haters who have
created webpages or forums to vent their anger and criticisms at the game. Although this does not improve
the popularity of the game in any way, it serves to publicize the game.
The second advertising media that Nintendo spends much effort on is magazines. Although magazines like
the Duelist are not related to Nintendo in any way, they also help to advertise pokémon. This is because
it is their job to report on any new or good games and things like that. This makes it easier for
Nintendo to advertise and publicize pokémon, as it does not strain their funds.
The actual meaning of sale is a salesperson talking a customer into buying something. Nintendo does not
employ any sales tactic to sell pokémon except at trade shows, and these shall be explained soon.
When a new company produces something, few consumers would actually buy its products. This is because the
company is not well known yet and consumers are at a risk should the products fail. However, since
Nintendo is well known and has a reputation for coming up with good games, consumers would not hesitate as
much when it comes to buying the game.
Sales promotions are the promotions held to improve sales. Often these promotions last for a limited
amount of time. These promotions are usually held to improve sales (and profits) for a short period of
time, to generate interest in the product suddenly, in other words, to create excitement and a desire
to buy a product temporarily.
Nintendo holds trade shows for pokémon, especially for the pokémon trading card game. Big and important
trade shows will show that the company that holds them is wealthy and this is often beneficial to the
company's reputation and image.
Another type of sales promotions is Nintendo's release of the special edition Game Boy Color, which
comes with Pokémon Yellow. It sells for a little less than a normal Gameboy Color and a Pokémon Yellow
does together. This is also known as bundling, the putting together of two products so that they would
cost less. This has increased sales of the Gameboy Color worldwide, an example of a successful sales
The 4 Utilities
Next, we shall study the 4 utilities. They are the form/function utility, place utility, time utility and
The form/function utility means the physical properties or usefulness that prompts customers to buy a
product. Pokémon is a game, which means that its purpose is mainly to entertain. Nowadays, very few
games are being created for a young age group about six to twelve years. Pokémon is an exception.
Because so few games have been created for this young age group, they naturally are attracted to any
game designed especially for them, and in this case it is pokémon. Most parents of six to twelve years
would probably not welcome violence, as they believe that the children are too young for that. However,
as pokémon is non-violent, parents would generally accept it.
Also, in the game there is the pokédex. For every pokémon collected, new information will be revealed
to the player about that pokémon. Through this, a child would develop an interest to collect and learn,
and to develop an interest in learning.
The place utility is the convenience of the place selling the product. In the 4Ps, the place factor
means the distribution system, whereas the place utility here means the place itself.
Pokémon was released in Japan in 1995 and the United States of America in 1996. It is currently being
introduced in the United Kingdoms. This is known as a product category extension, where a product is
introduced to another region or area.
As we can see, Nintendo markets pokémon to big consumers' markets in the world.
The convenience of this lies in the fact that Nintendo not only sells pokémon in Japan, but in America
and Europe too, and this means that one would not have to travel from America to Japan just to buy the
The time utility states the usefulness of the product at different times of the year. For example,
winter clothing are needed only during the cold winter season but not during other seasons. However,
pokémon's purpose is to entertain and it can provide this entertainment at any time of the year.
Possession utility states the ease of possession, meaning how easily the customer can get hold of the
product. There are two ways to buy the game.
Firstly, a customer can go to a retail shop and buy it on the spot. This makes ease of possession high
as the customer receives the product immediately.
Secondly, a customer can order it from an online store. The product usually takes about two to three days
to arrive. This makes ease of possession lower, but still quite high because the customer will not have
to travel anywhere to receive the product.
There are some ways to increase ease of possession. They are to allow sampling, improving warranties,
improving speed of delivery and allowing the customers to pay in installments. All of these will make
the product easier for the customer to buy.
A company hoping to make profits will have to balance three factors: price, service and product. In
other words, a company would have to make sure that these three factors cover each other. Example: If
the product is good, but service is bad, then pricing would be average. If the product and service were
good, then pricing would naturally be higher.