Pokémon are back – even though they never went away

pokemon go

When I’m not writing video game articles, I’m probably doing scientific copy editing, and it was in just such a capacity that I found myself subbing news articles for New Scientist earlier this week. One of the articles was on Pokémon Go, because of course it was – that’s pretty much the only thing anyone seems to be talking about on UK news outlets this week (apart from, you know, the fact that we now have a new prime minister and the country is teetering on the edge of Brexit-fuelled economic meltdown).

The slightly longer online version of the New Scientist article (which I didn’t edit) is here, but the print version I worked on had the trimmed down title of “Pokémon return”. The opening line was “It’s the 90s all over again”.

Now, clearly Pokémon Go has been an enormous success in the few days it’s been on sale. And it has obviously sparked a similar wave of fanaticism and devotion to when the original Red and Blue games shipped in the 1990s. But it was quite strange for me to read about Pokémon ‘returning’ – they never went away.

There’s been a top-selling Pokémon game pretty much every year since the series’ debut, and two of the most recent entries, Pokémon X/Y and Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, sold a pretty damn impressive 14.7 million and 11.8 million units, respectively. As of February 2016, the Pokémon series has sold a staggering 279 million copies – and that figure doesn’t even include spin-offs. Pokémon Centers regularly draw huge crowds in Japan, and fans always go crazy at the announcement of new Pokémon.

So, all in all, it sounds quite odd to my ears when Pokémon are described as ‘returning’. But then again, I’m pretty plugged in to the gaming scene – as far as the mainstream press is concerned, and the regular people on the street, they probably haven’t heard anything about Pokémon since 1998. And Pokémon Go is certainly a brilliant filler of column inches as we lurch forward into the newspaper ‘silly season’, what with tales of armed robberies at Pokéstops, Pokémon hunters finding dead bodies, and all sorts of other crazy stuff.

Hey fellow Pokémon fans, we’re mainstream again!