Generations Come and Go
Twenty years ago, Pokémon existed as 151 8-bit sprites players attempting to catch on the original Nintendo Game Boy. Envisioned by its creator, Satoshi Tajiri, to be a catalyst for interaction in a culture that was spending more and more time indoors. Satoshi had a passion for collecting bugs and turned this passion into Pokémon. The idea went full speed ahead when the Game Boy Link Cable was introduced, allowing data to be transferred between Game Boys. This inspired Satoshi to press forward with turning his idea for a social video game into a reality.
Twenty years later, Satoshi’s vision has paid off. Pokémon has grown from two Game Boy games into a multifaceted franchise. Containing a TCG, long running anime, multiple Manga series, multiple video game spin-offs (including a new Tekken-based fighting game), and much much much more. The common theme always being Trainers coming together to trade and battle.
What does the next twenty years hold for TPCI, Game Freak, and the Pokémon franchise? This is the exciting proposition that inspired me to start working on this series to begin with. The same vision that saw a social phenomenon in the Game Boy Link Cable is exactly what is needed to move Pokémon into esports.
From Game Boy to 3DS, Pokémon has come a long way. Just like the Game Boy Link Cable allowed the original Pokémon trainers to trade and battle, smartphones today have allowed new and old Trainers alike to catch Pokémon in the real world. Trainers around the world can bond over the joy of Pokémon in ways Satoshi never even imagined back in the 90’s. However, moving forward, what could be the next platform to really push Pokémon to its limit?
Simply put, Holograms. Augmented and Virtual Technology are both being fast tracked by Silicon Valley. These new types of technologies are breaking down the walls between the physical and the digital. Allowing users to create and enjoy experiences beyond their wildest imaginations. Pairing Hologram technology with the Pokémon franchise would potentially yield an eSport juggernaut.
Consider sitting in an arena, lights dim, and the announcers voice breaks over the intercom and announces two trainers as they walk onto the field. Lining up across from one another, they take time to consider their options, and then like lighting, four monsters appear in the middle of the field ready to do battle.
This type of imagery is precisely what is needed to give the extra oomph to a competitive Pokémon battle. The type of drama and energy that could be created by this type of spectacle would be hard to rival. I have no doubt that if TPCI and Game Freak were to pioneer the systems to make something like this happen, they would easily create an esport phenomenon. While unlikely TPCI will pursue this, chances are some ambitious competitor will see this new tech being developed. Then just like Satoshi with the Link Cable, they will be inspired to change the world.
Esports Glass Ceiling
Simply put, Pokémon as a brand stands for more than just collecting Pokémon. Where Pokémon truly shines is using innovative technology to break down barriers and bring people together. TPCI, Game Freak, and Nintendo should truly take heed of this point.
Throughout this series, my focus has been to identify both the reason Pokémon would work as an esport, as well as the struggles it would face. My hope was to show that ultimately the reward for TPCI was much greater than the risk.
The Pokémon brand has stood the test of time. Sustaining and growing over two decades is an incredible feat. Stagnation, however, leads to a collapse of market share. This is why taking the majority of market share in the new and fast growing esports market should be imperative to TPCI and Game Freak. So many new potential fans, with more interest growing every day could be at TPCI’s fingertips.
With a brand focused on bringing people together via trading and battling, as well as an already established tournament circuit in the VGC, puts Pokémon well on the path. Though the viewing experience and prize pool need a lot of work, there is still so much potential. Putting the focus on the Trainers, and pushing match commentary to be exciting and engaging would be easy first steps that could yield a lot of results. Working on refining competitive match tempo and fostering diverse metas would then create a seriously competitive esport product.
Satoshi Was Right
In the end, Satoshi had it right from the start. Use new and evolving technology to bring people together. This theme underpins the core of appeal for Pokémon. It is why such things as the Pokémon GO phenomenon can happen. Pokémon has become a cultural brand due to more than just cute monsters.
Being a sports fan, and now esports, has always been to me about bringing people together. This is the underlying theme that I see between Pokémon and the traditional sports our societies love. I know that if TPCI and Game Freak took this idea seriously, Pokémon could be a success as an esport. It could even revolutionize sports as we know them.
Thank you for reading this series. Pokémon means a lot to me and I want to share that passion with the world. A future with competitive Pokémon is a future I want to live in. If not than I just wonder… What will be the Game Boy Link Cable of the 21st century?
Follow me on Twitter: @aeroashwind