For fans of the mainline series, it wasn't the most auspicious of starts. The opening announcement from The Pokemon Company's recent 11-minute presentation likely had many a gamer rolling their eyes and wondering what the heck the guardians of the Pocket Monsters franchise were thinking by opening their presentation with a free smartphone app designed to make brushing teeth 'fun' for kids.
Fortunately, the crowd-pleasing New Pokémon Snap--arguably the star of the show for veteran gamers--gave die-hard followers something to chew on, and the liberal scattering of other announcements left Pokéfans with plenty to look forward to in the short-term; enough to not get hung up on the explicitly kid-focused opener, at least.
Still, the reveal of Pokémon Smile and its prominent position at the top of the presentation shows just how shrewd The Pokémon Company is. The downloadable smartphone app, which lets you catch over 100 Pokémon through brushing your teeth thoroughly while looking at a phone screen, certainly wasn't run first by accident. It was laser-targeted at a specific audience; not children, but their parents.
The idea that this app is some devious plot to hook very young children on the vast money-spinning Pokémon franchise seems obvious until you remember that this is Pokémon we're talking about. If there's one thing the franchise has never had a problem doing, it's attracting young children to its exciting, colourful world through its various games, TV shows, toys and endless parade of associated merchandise. As a brand, Pokémon is one of the most pervasive on the planet. Kids don't need another app to find out what a Squirtle is.
No, Pokémon Smile is a cunning play for parental approval. Of course, the indoctrination of toddlers is a wonderful side effect for The Pokémon Company--get 'em young!--but acquainting parents with the basics is also essential, and in a positive manner. Pokémon GO might be on every other smartphone on the street, and its ability to get people out-and-about is admirable in a world where the stereotype of the antisocial shut-in gamer persists, but it's still a piece of software that ultimately draws kids' attention to their phone screens and away from their family, even if they're outdoors as a group.
A free app with adorable characters that promotes good gums, though? That's some irrefutably wholesome stuff, right there! Pokémon Smile is the best video game-based promo for dental hygiene since Fortnite got every 6-year-old flossing.
Parents who grew up with the games and can list the entire National Dex from memory, backwards, will no-doubt be duct-taping their phones to the bathroom wall and forcing their kids to interact with this whether they like it or not. These are the sorts of guardians who have been indoctrinating their kids (quite understandably, we might add) with Pikachu plushies and presenting them with Starter Pokémon from the time the baby could focus on an object.
It's the people who have no idea what a Charmander is that The Pokémon Company is aiming for with this delightfully insidious free app. The next generation of Pokémon fans is arguably secure; Pokémon Smile is really aimed at the previous generation. It's a Trojan Rapidash designed to familiarise those with purchasing power with Bulbasaur, Eevee and the Pokégang, twice a day, morning and night (at least).
As Machiavellian gambits go, it's hard to feel too indignant. Spend 30 minutes watching any media designed for young children and the amount of blatant, unchecked advertising going on can be shocking if you're not a parent and don't generally sit down to a couple of episodes of Peppa Pig every afternoon. As sneaky as this is, oral hygiene is important and getting kids into good dental health practices can be tough. If Pokémon Smile gets whippersnappers brushing their teeth, the residual brand knowledge absorbed by attentive parents probably isn't the worst price to pay. Better for all concerned (certainly The Pokémon Company) if parents spend their disposable income on PokéProducts rather than procedures addressing preventable dental issues in the future, no?
After a rather odd opening to the presentation, die-hard fans had several other announcements to busy themselves with, including Pokémon Café Mix, some Pokémon GO news and more info on the recently-released Pokémon Sword and Shield Isle of Armor DLC, not to mention the tease for a further presentation next week. Ultimately, Pokémon Smile is easily ignored by gamers only interested in the 'proper' games. Still, for everyone who turned their nose up at the opening announcement, it's worth remembering exactly why The Pokémon Company continues to prominently highlight 'peripheral' products like this app: Gotta catch 'em all.
Young and old.
Have you downloaded Pokémon Smile yet? Will you be using it with your kids, or even giving it a go yourself? Let us know your thoughts on the app below and tell us what you most enjoyed about the presentation.
The fortnite joke was probably the best thing I've heard all day. Good job
That video is adorable!
@Blooper987 I love your profile pic. "When something smells, it's usually the Butz."
This game is cute. I won’t get it, but it’s cute.
@EdwardElric Agreed, that video made my day.
Honestly Pokémon Company is fantastic at pulling new fans. I've recently been watching Sun and Moon with my daughter and she is obsessed with Pikachu. Our toothbrushing routine is listening to the blippi toothbrushing song, I've been sick of it for months, today she was so happy brushing her teeth helping pikachu
I downloaded it yesterday after the presentation. My daughter used it last night for the first time. I honestly forgot about it already but she reminded me this morning when i told her to brush her teeth. Seems like it may do its job.
I actually appreciate the Pokemon Company and Nintendo in general for trying to better the community with things like Pokemon GO/Smile and the Jump Rope game. It's a nice touch that is probably wasted on the majority of ”gamers”, but it's an important mission.
Hey, it’s better than the ads the tobacco industry used to employ to make kids attracted to their products. It’s also better than predatory loot boxes and other micro-transactions. Some of the nicest people I have met have been through Pokémon related events, so if their aim is to sign up more kids to play Pokémon, I have no complaints.
They should, however, try to branch out a little with the gameplay. “Kid starts in town, gets free Pokémon, beats up offending Pokémon gang while getting badges,” kinda needs to be moved along! So much potential but they just keep recycling the scenario.
@TG16_IS_BAE That scenario is fresh to the next generation who plays. Majority who play Pokémon are kids, and this is their first or second Pokemon.
One step toward the next generation of humans unable to do anything without looking at a screen
@mesome713 So the Pokémon company should never change the scenario they have used across, what, 20 games? They should never attempt to innovate or reinvigorate long-term players by giving them something fresh as an incentive to buy the next game? Just trying to clarify what you are stating.
I would also argue that in terms of a majority, it’s adults who have been and are still playing from when they were kids.
@Smashfan508 Diverse games are kind of useless when you're too fat and unhealthy to do more than sit in a chair. At least someone cares about your health.
@TG16_IS_BAE They innovated with their very first game. It resonates with every new generation of child. They should most certainly keep it's soul in every game. If you start making it for the 'older kids' then you are in danger of over cooking the game for it's intended audience to the point it doesn't capture their imagination anymore. (Especially if it looks too realistic. It would be boring for them)
@GrailUK So, lets just maintain a low standard right?
I wish I still had teeth to enjoy this game
@TG16_IS_BAE How is touching the hearts of every child born a low standard??? You need to start articulating what you mean man.
@GrailUK I articulated it in a post up above, talking about how the series is stale and repetitive. Great for new-comers but not for long-timers. Before admonishing people you should browse the comments and brush up to speed on the conversation.
@TG16_IS_BAE You mean they should cater to people who barely buy their games. The games innovate just enough to get by. No need to be something it’s not.
Children leaving their moms home and getting ready to visit the world is an iconic theme that kids love and enjoy.
And until kids stop enjoying such a theme that play a big part in preparing them for what they’ll soon have to do, they should do what they do best. It’s special.
@mesome713 what’s the average age of a Pokémon player?
The one thing I don't get is why they are still seemingly only using Gen I Pokemon. This game is geared toward a younger audience, not the older audience who grew up with Gen I.
As someone who has played since the beginning AND adores Pokemon from all generations I get annoyed by this stuff. I know this isn't geared toward to me, but I just wonder, why even in products aimed toward younger children? Shouldn't they want to represent cute Pokemon from all generations?
@TG16_IS_BAE Oh I did read your comment. But you never gave a direction to what you want? It's fine saying you are bored and want a change, but give us something to hang our hats on I mean. 'Something fresh' isn't a thing lol. Or maybe using different countries as inspiration for the new games isn't fresh enough for you? Like I said, you cant change it too much without risk of alienating it's main audience.
@GrailUK Okay. Turn based battles are very dull when they are only one on one. Dragon Warrior recognized this right away, and introduced a party system in the second game that set the standard for games to come. Party systems are emulated to this day, because they are fun and interesting and invite variety. Pokemon still uses battles that are one on one, even though you can switch team members out, it still feels stale because whoever has the highest numbers will win.
I would start with something like that. Or even telling a different story. Something. Anything. lol I just find it hilarious that a game that bases it's premise on evolution doesn't freaking evolve!
I see that people are arguing that the freshness is for first time players, but that's just a silly notion because they are a business. If they only focused on first timers they would run out. Literally every business knows that they need to keep people coming back....to stay in business.
So, I would start with a strong, multi-party system. It would really open things up in terms of strategy and variety.
@TG16_IS_BAE Awesome. Thanks for the well thought out reply ^^ (I promise I wasn't having a go at you, so hope you didn't read my posts with hostility!)
Thinking holistically, they attract the new kids with merchandise, anime and films etc. They got that nailed. So I don't think anyone has to worry about the Pokémon Company running out of kids. I mean, they will be brushing their teeth while saving them lol! (never thought I would ever say that!).
Now, I happen to think your ideas are great, but wonder how well they could be integrated and I don't mean on a technical level. Balancing the number of Pokémon in battles implies an increased difficulty, with not much scope for getting past a sticking point than over levelling (which the game has gates to). Now if you up the difficulty, it's going to be less attractive to the kids. If they get frustrated, you lose them.
As for a different story, that needs to reflect the context of a child growing up in modern times. But my writing skills suck, so I can't really comment on this bit. (Besides, story for me is just an excuse to play the game. One could argue, the more detailed the story becomes, the more rigid in structure the game has to be. Rescuing the princess could mean any type of game. Develop it further and you narrow what you are allowed to do.)
Lot's to think about. It's simplicity is where Pokemon's genius lies. So they really need to make sure it doesn't become convoluted.
Hey, nice discussion man
THANK YOU. I almost thought you were having a go but I also don't like jumping to conclusions.
I agree that games with simplicity have a certain charm to them. I still to this day gravitate towards them from time to time. They fulfill something inside, not sure how to explain that but it gives me a feeling of comfort, I guess!
You are definitely right about balance...they have hundreds of Pokemon to consider, so that makes me glad I don't work for Game Freak to be that guy that has to balance them all! I wouldn't even know how to begin, honestly.
I do hope that one day a multi-party system is introduced, as that would get me to day-1 purchase a Pokemon game again. I do think that kids would be able to handle it. I played Dragon Warrior when I was 7, and when Dragon Warrior 2 came out I was 8 and transitioned just fine to the party system. Though, Dragon Warrior 2 was so obtuse in other areas that I didn't finish it until I was older.
I dunno, the idea of monster catching and such has always been so appealing to me. My first Pokemon game was Leaf Green/Fire Red, and they were so enjoyable, and that was in my early 20's! But every game in the series I played after that just felt like asset swapping, so I lost interest. Hopefully, one day, they do SOMETHING LMAO
Also, I agree, very nice discussion. It's so nice to take a break from Kotaku where everyone just yells at you for no reason and actually talk about the things we love: games!!!
@Smashfan508 I didn’t mean me😅 I just got done working out. I meant “gamers” in general. A sedentary lifestyle isn't exactly great for your health.
I do think it's a good business plan. They know full well that kids do not buy their games, parents do. Doing stuff like this might even get parents to buy the games for their kids without the kids even asking for it.
"No, Pokémon Smile is a cunning play for parental approval." Seriously? Parents with young children today are averaging in their 30s. These are people that grew up with Pokemon being ushered into their lives. Parents of young children have already made the decision to welcome Pokemon or not into their lives. It's a neat app to help with brushing, but I doubt the major point was to win parents over, parents either approve of Pokemon or not by now, don't think that app will change much of anything in that regard. Plus, what parent on the fence about Pokemon is tuning into a short Pokemon-focused reveal event for nothing but Pokemon games?
Having downloaded the game, it is clearly targeted toward very young children (younger than Pokemon's already young demographic) and definitely isn't for me, but I could see a 5 year-old kid enjoying this as his/her introduction to Pokemon. There are no microtransactions either, which is respectable and a bit surprising given how aggressively monetized other Nintendo/Pokemon mobile games have been.
With that being said, I doubt a game like this will have much longevity and I could see it being discontinued in 2 years or so.
They definitely hit the spot in my house, my boy lapped it up and it was the best teeth brushing he has every done!!
@Harmonie it's sad but Pokemon is trying to make a perpetual cycle with gen 1 nostalgia. Think about it the kids who grew up with this game and Let's Go will be nostalgic for Gen 1 despite the fact that both games could've had different gen pokemon. Sad but clever.
Whaf do yu mean itf's for kifs?
-goes back to brushing teeth in front of his cellphone-
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