What is Pokémon? Catch up on the phenomenon with our feature news


04/08/2016

For 20 years, Pokémon has delighted millions of fans of all ages and has become one of the most successful entertainment brands in the world. This legendary series has sold more than 279 million video games since the debut of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green in 1996 for the Game Boy in Japan.

Eager to learn more about the wonderful world of Pokémon? Read on and discover the history of this beloved series!

What are Pokémon?

Pokémon are creatures of all shapes and sizes who live in the wild or alongside humans. For the most part, Pokémon do not speak except to utter their names. There are currently more than 700 creatures that inhabit the Pokémon universe.

Pokémon are raised and commanded by their owners (called “Trainers”). During their adventures, Pokémon grow and become more experienced and even, on occasion, evolve into stronger Pokémon.

There are over a dozen different types of Pokémon, such as Fire type, Psychic type, and Dragon type. Every Pokémon type comes with both advantages as well as disadvantages when battling different Pokémon types. For instance, a Fire type Pokémon has the edge against Grass type Pokémon, but will be at a disadvantage against Water type Pokémon. This makes strategic thinking, positioning and use of the Pokémon in your team a crucial part of battles.

Here are some examples where you can see how different Pokémon can look:.

Basic gameplay (video games)

The first Pokémon video games were released in Europe for the Game Boy in 1999, and the series has driven the popularity of Pokémon ever since. Pokémon games have appeared on Nintendo systems including Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.

In most games, the player takes on the role of a young Trainer whose journey involves travelling from place to place, catching and training Pokémon, and battling against other Trainers' Pokémon on a quest to become the Pokémon League Champion. An additional goal is to catch and catalogue all of the many Pokémon within the game's world. Despite this battling aspect of the games, the Pokémon games avoid explicit violence; Pokémon never die during the course of the game. Trainers are invited to take part in many peripheral activities when playing, including talent and beauty contests, tournaments, and fishing (for Pokémon, of course!).

Players can battle and trade Pokémon with other players as well, letting children learn the merits of sharing and sportsmanship. With newer video game systems, players can even play and trade online with other Trainers around the world.

A word from the developer about the series’ success

Junichi Masuda is the director of Pokémon at Japanese game developer Game Freak.

“When we set out I would say that we completely believed in what we were doing, and we wanted to bring the joys discovering special creatures – Pokémon – and then collecting, battling and trading to kids: that was our dream. But at the time we could only hope that people would like our vision as much as we did! It was a happy surprise… or a dream come true when the game became successful.”

“I think a lot of the success lays in the Pokémon themselves and the bond that fans create between themselves and the creatures they discover whilst playing. Fans love choosing and battling their favourite Pokémon. With each new generation there are new Pokémon for people to discover and enjoy. This, and the rich communication features of the games that bring people from all over the world together.”

Key Pokémon video games over the years

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Pokémon Red Version and Pokémon Blue Version

Release date: 05/10/1999

Platform: Game Boy

The very first games in the Pokémon series launched in Japan in 1996, and arrived in Europe in 1999.

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Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition

Release date: 16/06/2000

Platform: Game Boy Color

Unique to this game, Pikachu follows players around throughout their journey.

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Pokémon Gold Version and Pokémon Silver Version

Release date: 06/04/2001

Platform: Game Boy Color

100 newly discovered Pokémon were introduced, as well as a “night and day” cycle that meant players could find different Pokémon depending on the time of day.

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Pokémon Crystal Version

Release date: 02/11/2001

Platform: Game Boy Color

The first game to allow players to choose between a male and female Trainer.

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Pokémon Ruby Version and Pokémon Sapphire Version

Release date: 25/07/2003

Platform: Game Boy Advance

These titles for Game Boy Advance introduced 2-on-2 battles, allowing four Trainers to play at once.

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Pokémon FireRed Version and Pokémon LeafGreen Version

Release date: 01/10/2004

Platform: Game Boy Advance

Enhanced versions of the original titles, this was the first game to allow players to trade and battle without wires, using the Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter.

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Pokémon Emerald Version

Release date: 21/10/2005

Platform: Game Boy Advance

A third adventure set in the Hoenn region introduced in Pokémon Ruby Version and Pokémon Sapphire Version, with a new Battle Frontier mode for powerful Trainers to battle each other.

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Pokémon Diamond Version and Pokémon Pearl Version

Release date: 27/07/2007

Platform: Nintendo DS

For the first time, players could battle and trade with others around the world via the internet.

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Pokémon Platinum Version

Release date: 22/05/2009

Platform: Nintendo DS

A third adventure in the Sinnoh region introduced in Pokémon Diamond Version and Pokémon Pearl Version.

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Pokémon HeartGold Version and Pokémon SoulSilver Version

Release date: 26/03/2010

Platform: Nintendo DS

With the included Pokéwalker accessory, players could train their Pokémon just by walking in the real world.

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Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version

Release date: 04/03/2011

Platform: Nintendo DS

This adventure, set in the new Unova region, added the Triple Battle feature, where six Pokémon – three on each team – could battle it out.

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Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2

Release date: 12/10/2012

Platform: Nintendo DS

Set two years after its predecessor, with a new story and more Pokémon to discover.

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Pokémon X and Pokémon Y

Release date: 12/10/2013 (worldwide)

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Pokémon were displayed in 3D for the very first time, bringing a new dimension to the adventure, while Mega Evolutions let some Pokémon take on different forms.

Since 12th October 2013, these titles have sold more than 3.5 million copies (combined) across Europe.

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Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire

Release date: 28/11/2014

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Enhanced remakes of Pokémon Ruby Version and Pokémon Sapphire Version, with new Mega Evolutions and secrets to uncover.

Since 28th November 2014, these titles have sold more than 3 million copies (combined) across Europe.

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Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon

Release date: 23/11/2016

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

The next era of Pokémon adventures is set in the Hawaii-inspired Alola region, and will feature new Pokémon and gameplay features.

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We hope you enjoyed this trip back through 20 years of Pokémon with us. With the release of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon fast approaching and Pokémon GO available now on iPhone and Android devices, there's never been a better time to set out on your own adventure. See you out there, Trainers!