The Pokémon Company

A ship in troubled waters: Pokémon, and the hardware boost it provides, shows a strong Nintendo

A ship in troubled waters: Pokémon, and the hardware boost it provides, shows a strong Nintendo

Pokémon is a giant property, and Nintendo reminded the gaming industry of that fact with the release of Pokémon X and Y on October 12. This was the first time that a Pokémon title has been released on the same day worldwide, which makes apples to apples comparisons to other launches in the series a little more complicated, but Nintendo itself provides some context.

“Since this was the first global launch in franchise history, there isn’t an exact historical precedent for comparison,” the announcement stated. “However, when combining and comparing regional data for previous launches, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y would be the fastest-selling Nintendo 3DS games of all time and are tracking ahead of the last Pokémon RPG titles, Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2, by more than 70 percent.”

X and Y should continue to sell through the holiday season, and will likely prove to be popular Christmas items. It’s hard to overestimate just how powerful and profitable the Pokémon series has been for Nintendo, and for how long. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl sold a combined 17.6 million units on the DS, and FireRed and LeafGreen, way back on the GameBoy Advance, sold a combined total of 12 million.

When you go back and look at the sales of the original Red and Blue releases in the United States and Europe, which total around 13.3 million, and see that 10.4 million units of Red, Blue, and Green sold in Japan, you have a franchise that has been printing money for 17 years. And this doesn’t even account for the television show, merchandising, side projects, and themed GameBoy hardware that has been released throughout the series’ history.

This is why Nintendo is doubling-down on Pokémon in 2013. I’m not going to shock anyone by suggesting that the Wii U has been a disappointment, and it may be more accurate to call sales of the system a calamity for Nintendo. That’s why Pokémon, and the rest of the big-name Nintendo franchises coming in November, are so important.

Nintendo didn’t just release Pokémon X and Y, they also released a new version of their portable line called the 2DS, which proved to be a rather great little system. It’s also the least expensive of Nintendo’s portable offerings, and is perfect for the hands of smaller children. Children who would probably love trying to catch them all. Nintendo also released themed 3DS XL hardware for each of the two versions of the game. So the four million sold in two days is only part of the story; expect a spike in Nintendo portables across multiple products right now, and then again for the holidays.

Nintendo estimates that it has sold over 245 million units of Pokémon games worldwide through the franchise's history. Take a moment with your coffee, sit back, and meditate on that number for a bit. 245 million units. We spend a lot of time talking about the success of Call of Duty, but Pokémon is a franchise that has been selling a pretty insane number of units for a much longer time.

So what does this mean?

These numbers should serve to show you the power and nearly limitless earning potential of Nintendo franchises, and this is why you should never take anyone seriously when they suggest that Nintendo games should come to iOS or Android devices as a way to boost revenue. Anyone who thinks Nintendo would be better off selling $3 versions of games that now move 10 million units at $40, often selling multiple copies to the same family, is insane.

We should also turn a blind eye to those deathless opinion pieces about how Nintendo is dying, or is in any kind of trouble. Apple will continue to chip away at the portable gaming industry with the ongoing release of iPads, iPods, and iPhones, but that doesn’t indicate that Nintendo needs to begin playing in Jobs’ walled garden. These numbers show that Nintendo will be just fine in the portable space, at least for the next few years.

We need to grow up a bit and get rid of the idea that Nintendo is in trouble, and focus on what’s really taking place: The stumbling of the Wii U. VentureBeat's Jeff Grub said on Twitter that we should think of the Wii U as a blockbuster that didn’t live up to expectations; do we think that Disney is going under because John Carter was a bust? Of course not. One bum product won't sink a company this big, with so many strong weapons at its disposal.

Nintendo had more riding on the Wii U than Disney does in a single film, but gaming fans and often the press love to over-sell every stumble in the business world. Nintendo has only begun to flex in this generation of consoles, and the success of Pokémon worldwide is only one of its muscles.