A lot is riding on Pikachu’s little yellow shoulders.
With a growing number of consumers playing videogames on smartphones and tablet computers, Nintendo7974.TO -6.08%’s biggest weapon in enticing gamers to buy its hardware is to create appealing games that can’t be played anywhere else.
Sequels of proven hit franchises like “Animal Crossing” are central to that strategy. Perhaps no franchise is as important to the success of its portable game systems as the “Pokemon,” or Pocket Monsters, series, a long-running favorite among young children who collect and train cute-looking monsters for head-to-head battle.
It’s been a staple Nintendo game since the first Pokemon debuted in 1996. It’s evolved into a massive entertainment powerhouse featuring trading cards, comic books and a wide range of merchandise. The face of that franchise is none other than Pikachu, a short, chubby pocket monster whose occasional discharges of electricity belie his cute demeanor.
Nintendo is counting on Pokemon to work its magic again, driving customers to its portable game machines. The company is planning to release “Pokemon X” and “Pokemon Y” worldwide as a pair of games on Oct. 12.
In a sign of how much is riding on Pokemon, Nintendo is introducing a discounted handheld game machine on the same day as the game’s launch. The new device will be called 2DS, a cousin of the existing 3DS device. It plays the same games as the 3DS but it is missing the feature to display 3-D images. Nintendo said it will start selling the 2DS in North America and Europe on Oct.12 for $130 – nearly 25% cheaper than the 3DS.
Historically, demand for Nintendo’s portable game machines starts to take off once the Pokemon games hit the market. With the Nintendo DS, sales started to spike after the company released “Pokemon Diamond Version” and “Pokemon Pearl Version.” Another positive factor in the DS’s sales improvement was the introduction of a slimmer, lighter DS.
Pokemon Diamond/Pearl sold about 18 million units for the DS, making it the fifth most popular game for the platform. Two other Pokemon titles are also in the top 10 of best-selling DS games.
Can Pikachu work his magic again?