Could 4Kids Entertainment have another “Pokemon”-sized hit in its pocket?
The kidvid distributor’s latest import to U.S. shores, “Yu-Gi-Oh!,” certainly has the right pedigree, having already scared up $2 billion in Asia.
4Kids, whose U.S pic and TV versions of “Pokemon” reaped a sizable chunk of the $16 billion in worldwide revenues sown by that franchise, is now orchestrating the U.S. rollout for “Yu-Gi-Oh!” The series debuted in September on the Kids’ WB Saturday kidtoon lineup, and with strong ratings among boys 6-11 (4.8) and 6-17 (4.1), the network plans to strip the show six days a week beginning April 1.
The franchise is based on a Japanese comicbook about a boy who transforms into Yu-Gi-Oh (roughly translated: Master of Games) when he plays a card game involving dueling monsters. The comicbook spawned a real card game, vidgames and the TV toon that 4Kids has translated.
“It’s tracking about the same as Pokemon did,” says 4Kids marketing veepee Roz Nowicki. “I think we all believe it’s going to be really big, but we don’t know how high is high on this.”
While “Yu-Gi-Oh!” is distinct from its precursor — target aud is 10 and up, and the material has more edge and less of “Pokemon’s” cuddlier side — the rollout of “Yu-Gi-Oh” merchandise does echo that of the earlier kid hit.
Mattel just released the first action figures based on some of the 1,200 “Yu-Gi-Oh” creatures. “We believe it’s a license that’s going to be around for more than this year or next,” says Mattel’s Sara Rosales.
A limited first edition of Upper Deck’s collectible trading-card game sold out in days at the distrib level; it will be succeeded mid-April by a bigger run.And on March 19, Konami rolls out “Yu-Gi-Oh!” vidgames for the PlayStation and Game Boy Color platforms. Game Boy Advance and PlayStation 2 titles will arrive in the fall.
“Watching this thing grow,” Nowicki says, “some of us think it’s a little scary.”