TabbyDasher Written by cats, for cats.


Marketing Nintendo’s Pokemon Franchise: One Game For the Price of Three

Posted by Tom Terranova

Nintendo loves the Pokémon franchise – because each new game gives them an opportunity to shake down consumers two to three times for the same game. By adding a few exclusive monsters or making minor changes to the game, they convince many fans to repurchase it multiple times. But that's just the beginning. Nintendo will gladly charge you for that same game 2 or 3 more times over the next 10-20 years.

In some ways, Nintendo's marketing of the Pokémon games reminds me of a television infomercial that dupes people into signing up for a recurring credit card charge. The customer thinks they're ordering a single item, but in reality they're signing up for a "club" that will auto-bill them for product refills every few months. It's not illegal, but it's shady – as is Nintendo's tactic of persuading fans to buy the same games over and over. First, two versions of a new Pokemon game are released simultaneously, with each offering a handful of exclusive pokémon (and in the latest game, one location that is different.) When sales taper off a year or two later, they often release a third version that includes all the exclusive Pokémon and some minor fixes and tweaks that should have been included in the first two versions. Years later, they may also try to resell you the game on each of their their virtual consoles. And they may also remake the game so that they can sell it to you on their current handheld (after they've dropped support for the system the game was originally released on.) And sadly, today's Pokémon games only include one game save slot – which prevents siblings from sharing a single game card. Not only do you need to "catch 'em all", but every kid in the house also needs to have their own copy. They'd also prefer that each child have their own handheld as well, so they tie each game's online profile to a single piece of Nintendo hardware.

You don't have to buy multiple copies of a CD if you want to play it on each new stereo you get over the years, or to play it in your car. You don't have to buy the same CD again if you want to rip mp3 files from a CD for your iPod. You don't need to buy a new CD for each kid in your house who wants to listen to it. And you don't have to buy a CD multiple times to get access to all of the songs on an album.  Likewise, you shouldn't have to buy multiple copies of a game to do these kinds of things.

Recently some of Nintendo's licensees are getting into the act, too. With the release of Pokémon Black/White, Prima Publishing emulated Nintendo's marketing tactics by breaking their official strategy guide for Pokémon Black/White into two volumes, with each selling for  $19.99. Prima took the vital components of a complete guide (walkthrough, Pokédex, post-game info, etc.) and spread them out across the two volumes such that consumers must buy both to get what was once sold as a single, complete guide. They also released a third version of the guide (a $29.99 hardback edition of volume one), but instead of giving customer's a complete guide for that price, they only threw in one extra section from the second volume. So even if you buy the deluxe volume 1, you still need to buy volume 2.  Either way, a complete strategy guide (both volumes) ends up costing more than the game itself.

Here are the Pokémon games that have been released in three versions:

Pokémon Red / Blue / Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition
Pokémon Gold / Silver  /Crystal
Pokémon Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald
Pokémon Diamond / Pearl / Platinum
Pokémon Black / White / ??