The Transmedia influence of Pokémon: Gotta Reach ‘Em All!

Micro-Essay by Sean Rajjab

Very few people have not heard of Pokémon.  It is one of the most popular video game franchises but is known for more than just the games.  The Pokémon franchise has influence in many different media forms including: video games, animated series, movies, trading cards, board games, toys, books, and plush dolls, among many more.  Pikachu is arguably as iconic and recognizable as Mickey Mouse.  I feel that Pokémon’s success can be attributed to their strategy of diversifying their media forms to reach different circles of consumers.  In a media class that I’m taking this semester, an exercise of ours was to determine the strength and weaknesses between different media forms, based on the affordances and constraints they present.  With this idea in mind, and looking at the Pokémon franchise, we can understand why the Pokémon name is known so far and wide amongst popular culture.

Each media form and merchandise line bearing the brand of “Pokémon” has its own strengths and weaknesses for reaching particular audiences.  Let’s look at the example of the original Pokémon Red/Blue video games, and their recent animated adaptation of Pokémon Origins.  The video games were designed to highlight the journey and freedom of choice presented to the player; this was its most attractive selling point.  This is due to the fact that video games allow a player to take direct control and ownership of the events that occur within the game.  Your Pokémon are trained by you, you choose who does what attack next, and these decisions are what create your unique story and experience.  The Pokémon Origins animated series was an adaptation of the same story but in a cinematic form that a viewer could not influence, therefore the focus was put on the characters and their dialogues instead.  The fact that the animators controlled what was on screen, and set the tone through colors and music to influence emotional reactions, let them put more emphasis on the writing that many players glazed over as blocks of text.  Cubone’s story of losing its mother became a full fledge story with actors rather than a few lines of text on a screen that held the player back from making more experiences.

The affordances present in varying media forms allow the works to appeal to different kinds of audience.  This is why Pokémon has been successful in becoming a household name.  The fact that the franchise has presence in a multitude of media forms, means that the fan base is not restricted to consumers of a specific product.  All the while, the individual forms complement each other by being a part of the same universe, reducing barriers between different groups of fans.   I feel this is one of the key factors to Pokémon’s success.

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