2019: Year of the Pokémon

Forget the year’s big movies, books, albums, and video games: 2019 is the year of the Pokémon.

“It’s a huge year for Pokémon and this week is a really great microcosm of that,” J.C. Smith, consumer marketing director for The Pokémon Company International, told Variety in a recent interview.

The week included Ryan Reynolds dropping a video showing his prep work for voicing the most famous of Pokémon: Pikachu. (Not much, apparently). That was followed by a new trailer for the live-action “Detective Pikachu” movie. There was a massive update to the Pokémon TV app. News broke of anime “Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon — Ultra Legends” coming to U.S. TV soon. Nintendo announced a brand new pair of Pokémon games set for an exclusive Switch launch. And, of course, there was the official Pokémon Day to celebrate.

“We’ve had a pretty busy week,” Smith said.

That’s because while Legendary Entertainment is creating the movie, Nintendo the games, Niantic tending to “Pokemon Go” and a slew of other companies dealing with other facets of the mega brand, it’s up to The Pokémon Company to ensure everything Pokémon fits together neatly.

“Our role is to manage all things Pokémon,” Smith said. “We see the big picture.”

That means managing timelines and looking for compelling cases for cross-integration between movie, cartoon, game, collectible card game, video game, merchandise and apps.

“It’s fun for us challenging for us,” Smith said.

And happily, for The Pokémon Company, that challenge has become an even broader task since 2016.

“That was a really pivotal year for us,” he said. “If you recall we did a general Super Bowl ad.”

That was used to kick off the 20th year celebration for the brand, and then that summer developer Niantic released “Pokémon Go” and nothing has been the same since.

“‘Pokémon Go’ was a great opportunity for us,” Smith said. “It’s still a great opportunity to expose people to a form of Pokémon that is very accessible and free.”

The app’s release wasn’t just popular, it also helped broaden the appeal of Pokémon to an entirely new group of fans.

“It had an expanding effect for us,” Smith said. “When we released (Nintendo Switch games) ‘Let’s Go Pikachu’ and ‘Let’s Go Evee’ you saw that. Those games are really a way to make the console handheld experience accessible to people who came in through ‘Pokémon Go’.

Since the release of “Pokémon Go,” more than 850 million people have downloaded the free-to-play game, Smith noted. And while that’s a staggering number, it’s still put to shame but another Pokémon statistic. While Pokémon started out as a Nintendo video game franchise, the collectible card game is a monstrous success with more than 23.6 billion cards shipped.

Smith calls those Pokémon stats unfathomable, big numbers built off a trusted brand with decades of experience.

“For 23 years Pokémon has been consistently putting out great games,” Smith said. “We now have evolved into a brand trusted and loved by people of all ages and their kids.”

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