Pokémon is everywhere.

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You know what Pokémon is. You might not have known what it was 25 years ago, when the pocket monster world made its debut in Japan with a pair of red and green Nintendo Game Boy cartridges.

But you know now.

At the time, Pokemon was a rumor in a magazine, or maybe a weird word you heard. Not knowing what Pokemon was in 1996 was forgivable and believable, but today? Today you know what Pokémon is. Everyone does it. It is one of the largest and most recognizable media brands on the planet.

This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. According to Statista, humanity has spent around $ 100 billion on Pokemon since the mid-1990s, making it the world’s most lucrative media franchise by a. large margin. If you count in dollars spent, Pokemon is more popular than Hello Kitty, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse and Star wars, in this order. Harry Potter and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are not even in the same league.

Surprised? This is understandable. The best-selling Pokemon game isn’t even the best-selling video game of all time – so how could it overtake Marvel or Star Wars?

Likewise, all of these franchises have become staples of modern pop culture: merchandising.

Photos of Warner Bros.

Each of these top-grossing media franchises have earned their fortunes primarily through merchandising, licensing, and retail sales. George Lucas made his fortune not on the Star Wars films, but on the merchandising rights he retained when Fox believed the film was going to fail.

Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh made millions at the box office, but Billions on sales of goods.

And Pokémon is even bigger. Pokemon is an invisible and permanent staple of pop culture. This is why Warner Bros. could make a Pokémon Detective Pikachu film without anyone blinking. No one needed to explain the concept of pocket monsters because we already understood it. In 2019, a big-budget mainstream Pokemon movie was as nostalgic as The Peanuts Movie.

It all comes down to one inescapable conclusion: despite the recent announcement a new Pokemon Snap game, Diamond and Pearl remakes, and the open world Pokémon Legends: Arceus, today, Pokemon is first a brand of toys and licenses, then a series of Nintendo games. Maybe it always has been.

Brenda Chase / Stringer

There is no justification for the existence of the 1990’s VW Beetle redesign as a PikaBug.

Brenda Chase / Stringer

Merchandising and branding have been an integral part of Pokemon from the start. Some of the first Pokémon toys were released in Japan in October 1996 as soft vinyl finger puppets, wrapped with candy. Around the same time, the hugely popular Pokemon trading card game hit stores just months after the first game debuted. Nintendo, Creatures Inc, and Game Freak learned early on how much the Pocket monster characters could be attractive.

Prior to the original game’s launch in the United States, Nintendo built a fleet of Pokemon-themed VW bugs to roam the country and promote the game. Each car was equipped with a TV, modified N64, and a copy of Pokemon in the trunk. They all looked like a big Pikachu on wheels, and foreshadowed things to come: Pikachu on everything.

By the time Pokemon hit the international market, Japan was already enjoying the Pokemon card game, an Anime Pokemon, Pokemon Manga, candy wrapped with Pokemon Toys and more – starting the franchise to become a marketing machine when it came to hit the United States. It didn’t take long for Pokemon to become an international phenomenon.

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Pokemon’s merchandising power became so huge that the Pokemon Company had to be founded just to handle it all. Today you can find Pikachu on the top of a pez dispenser. Adorable Pikachu piggy bank. Pikachu blankets, portable bath towels And shoes. There are Pokémon on socks, stationary and even the breakfast table. There was once a Pokemon Stage show, and there are Pokemon themed x-ray machines. For a while, a kind of Pokemon airline existed, operated by All Nippon Airways called Pokemon Jet.

Pokemon is now such a normal and common part of our culture that scientists have literally discovered that images of Pokemon evoke a specific response in the human brain.

Pokemon is everywhere and everything, and always has been.

And if you didn’t know it, now you know it.