For three days, the great port city of Yokohama was the scene of fierce clashes between trainers of a very particular kind. It was south of Tokyo, from August 11 to 13, that the Pokémon World Championship, a video game franchise created in 1996 by Satoshi Tajiri, was held.
The famous brand was then exploited in various forms: manga, anime or even collectible card games. In the homonymous animated series as in the video games, the main character, Sacha, travels through various fictional regions to catch multiple eponymous monsters. The ultimate goal of his adventures is to become “the best trainer in the world”.
Pokémon are thus imaginary creatures, with very different powers and appearances, which can be captured in the wild and which are used to fight other creatures.
30 years later, “Pocket monsters” still popular
Launched in Japan in 1996 in the wake of the video game series, the card game always seemed to be in vogue at the world championships in Yokohama. Organized for the first time in the native land of this franchise, they saw 2,000 players compete, in front of 10,000 fans of this universe.
Pokémon cards, whose name is derived from its original version “Pocket monsters”, have experienced a strong resurgence of interest in recent years. The fights to which they give rise still rage in the playgrounds.
Collectible cards that snap
Such popularity that some collector cards have driven prices to very high levels. American YouTuber Logan Paul broke all records in 2021, buying himself a Pikachu card (Sacha’s yellow sidekick creature, which can generate electricity with its lightning-shaped tail) for almost 5.3 million dollars (4.8 million euros).
The growing demand from collectors for playing cards has even caused shortages and incidents in Japan and the United States. Images of an altercation with fists in front of a store out of stock in Japan, at the end of July, circulated widely on social networks. Several burglaries of shops selling cards have also shaken the Japanese archipelago in recent months, resulting in losses of several million yen.
To prevent potential shortages each time new cards are released, some stores have reserved their sales to minors, who must present an identity card, and some shops do not sell more than ten packs per person.
Simple speculation or real craze?
In twenty-seven years, 53 billion cards have been printed and distributed in 14 languages in 89 countries and territories, according to official figures. This global craze is sometimes just a business of resellers, some rare cards becoming collectibles of tangible value, which can be resold with a considerable margin.
The popularity of this game is also explained by the marketing efforts of the franchise to renew itself regularly, and this, for almost thirty years. New generations of Pokémon are released every three or four years on average, constantly supplying the market with new creatures to collect.
So far, the franchise has not announced a major new installment in 2023 for the Pokémon saga. On the other hand, the Violet and Scarlet generation, released in 2022, will be entitled to a big extension at the end of the year. Perhaps enough to ignite the playing card market a little more.