Pokémon officially enters Chinese market
The world's most distinguished yellow mouse, Pikachu, and other beloved "pocket monsters" have suddenly been appearing everywhere in Chinese malls this year, on T-shirts, sneakers, and on the goods of many overseas and domestic brands.
This Pokémon extravaganza has amazed its Chinese fans, as the Pokémon game, the core of the franchise, was never officially released in the Chinese mainland, and authorized goods were also a rare sight.
Pokémon is the highest ever grossing franchise globally, with total revenues of about $90 billion, the Guardian newspaper reported. Now, it is seeking an even larger market by trying to formally enter China.
Many young Chinese customers stayed up late Sunday night to see the latest updates on Uniqlo's online store.
The Japanese clothing brand was releasing its new Pokémon-theme T-shirts at midnight on Monday, and fans were waiting in eager anticipation.
By 12:01 am, a shirt with a Charizard painting was already in short supply and all sizes of a T-shirt featuring Gengar, the most popular Pokémon ghost, sold out in about 30 minutes.
Those who did not manage to get the shirts they wanted rushed to the physical stores on Monday morning.
Uniqlo was not the first brand to partner up with Pokémon this summer. Companies including Adidas Neo, SPAO and domestic Lightningbear have released their own Pokémon-themed wear in China.
The monsters have also appeared on many kinds of drinks, including soda, yogurt and milk beverages of different brands.
China Merchants Bank has released a series of credit cards featuring three different kinds of Pokémon pictures.
Detective Pikachu, the first Pokémon live-action movie, has made more than 600 million yuan since it was released on May 10 in the Chinese mainland, according to ticketing platform Maoyan.
For the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, the film rekindled memories of watching Pokémon cartoons on TV in their childhood.
Jiang Chenxuan, who prefers to be called Timo, is one of the most famous Pokémon fans in China. His Pokémon-related Sina Weibo account has 1 million followers.
"I felt very excited, but it's very hard on my wallet," Timo joked when talking about the new influx of Pokémon goods. Compared with Pokémon toys, which can only be placed on shelves, he said that he would prefer to have more daily necessities featuring Pokémon elements. "I am pragmatic," he said.
The 27-year-old told the Global Times that he first heard the name Pikachu at the age of 8, when Pokémon cartoons were aired on TV. In fourth grade, he got his first Gameboy and first Pokémon game, and his passion for the franchise has not stopped since then.
Over the past few years, he has spent more than 100,000 yuan on his Pokémon collection - mostly on game devices. His room is filled with collector's items, the largest of which is a 1.64m Pikachu.
"People do exercise or listen to music when they're under pressure or feeling tired, but I play Pokémon games," Timo said. "Whenever I see these adorable monsters, I feel happy and relaxed."
Timo told the Global Times that at the beginning, Chinese players could only play with domestically-made devices and pirated games. When personal computers became common in Chinese families, they played on computers with simulators.
"When Chinese fans began to gain awareness of copyright, we would find ways to buy devices and games from Japan or the US," he said.
"Pokémon has formed its own communication and culture in China as well," he said. "Every year we have the PMO (Pokémon Only) comic con, but it's more like friends meeting each other."
Step by step
Pokémon is gradually solidifying its market presence in China.
The official Chinese name of Pokémon was announced in February 2016, together with translations of all the various monsters' names. The seventh generation of the game released later that year also included Chinese language options for the first time.
The Pokémon Company opened its official Sina Weibo in July 2017, publishing news and stories about the franchise in Chinese.
In December 2018, Nintendo registered dozens of trademarks related to Pokémon in China, gamersky.com said.
In January, the Chinese server of free mobile game Pokémon Quest launched a trial version, which is expected to be the first Pokémon game released officially in the Chinese mainland. The game is jointly developed by Chinese game company NetEase, Game Freak and The Pokémon Company. It is yet to be made available to the public.
In previous years, the slightest indication of a market entry would send Chinese Pokémon fans into a frenzy, as they had been hoping for the main series of Pokémon games to be released in the Chinese mainland like in other countries and regions.
In April, Tencent announced that it will sell the Nintendo Switch game console in the Chinese mainland. The console will also be the platform for the next main series Pokémon game - the Pokémon Sword and Shield.
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