It’s hard to believe that the Pokémon franchise is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The series initially got its start in 1996 with the release of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue for the Game Boy, which led to more game releases, a popular television series that vastly expanded the brand, big-screen films and trading cards that would become a hot commodity for millions of fans around the world.
The 20th anniversary of a franchise this significant deserves a grand celebration—Feb. 27 was the official birthday. These are some highlights.
Devoted fan page
Accompanying the social media push and the #Pokemon20 hashtag, the Pokémon Company also launched a dedicated website where they showcased the love of all things Pokémon. These included pictures and videos that talked about the first time fans played the game, favorite memories and delicious looking food.
The company also promised that particular posts that made their way to Instagram with the hashtag could receive “something special” — perhaps a memento to celebrate the franchise’s 20th anniversary.
Throughout the entire weekend, the team at Twitch streamed a marathon of Pokémon-based programming, which drew a large community of viewers. At one point, the marathon even managed to attract 72,000 concurrent fans watching its programming, and it also became a huge draw on social media with thousands of #Pokemon20 tweets.
Considering that Twitch gained huge popularity with “Twitch Plays Pokémon,” where multiple users entered chat messages that translated into game commands, it makes sense that the streaming would take part in the immense celebration for the franchise.
Pokémon‘s special day
To celebrate the anniversary of the series, the Pokémon Company hosted a special event with various stores, including GameStop and Toys“R”Us, which offered various goodies for fans to collect. These included a special mythical Pokémon poster with the purchase of any product, and special foil cards featuring familiar Pokémon characters such as Pikachu and Magikarp. Special events also took place at a special pop-up shop at JapanLA, as well as Nintendo’s New York store, with fun activities for all ages.
The Super Bowl was center stage for Pokémon this year, as a commercial celebrated the 20-year legacy of the franchise. Looking to inspire with the catch phrase “I can do that,” the commercial transitions to an up-and-coming Pokémon trainer preparing for battle, while a hopeful parent looks on and encourages his kid to give it a try.
Who says the Pokémon franchise is just for kids? On Saturday in West Hollywood, actress Drew Barrymore hosted a special Pokémon event, working as brand ambassador in the hopes of introducing the franchise to a new medium: fashion.
“I like the fact that I’ve been around forever and Pokémon has been around forever,” she told the The Daily Beast. “I think what they’re doing with fashion is very current with what Moschino and Opening Ceremony and Rodarte are doing. There’s a playfulness that we’re now allowed to have in fashion again, for the first time in years.”
Bring on the games
It wouldn’t be a proper celebration of Pokémon if there weren’t any games coming out this year. Fortunately, both Nintendo and the Pokémon Company have plenty lined up.
Nintendo got the anniversary weekend started off on the right foot with the re-release of Pokémon Red Version, Pokémon Blue Version and Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition for its Nintendo 3DS handhelds through its eShop. So far, the games are selling well with the nostalgic Pokémon community.
Those looking for on-the-go Pokémon action, but don’t own a 3DS, are in luck. Last year, Niantic announced an augmented reality game for mobile devices, Pokémon GO!, which is set to release for iOS and Android. Anticipation is very high, and fans can’t wait to “catch ’em all” in real-world environments.
On March 18, consumers will see the release of Pokken Tournament for Wii U, a Pokémon-themed fighting game that also includes elements from Tekken (thus the name). The game will feature a variety of characters battling in 3D fighting action. Given the collaboration with Bandai Namco, the game is gaining big buzz leading into its release, and will be included in the forthcoming EVO tournament, which will take place in Las Vegas this July.
Nintendo has also announced Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, the first new games in the franchise since Pokémon X and Y came out in 2013. It’s expected to arrive during the holidays for the Nintendo 3DS, as detailed in the latest episode of Nintendo Direct.
No matter what fans are into on the Pokémon front, there’s something for everyone as the celebration for its 20th anniversary continues.