In a national mania not seen since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Pokémon series is becoming a hotter and hotter license. Hasbro's toys are selling out faster than they can be made, and card game manufacturer Wizards of the Coast is backlogged with orders after selling 600,000 units of the Pokémon card game after only eight weeks on the market. Electronics Boutique has been selling Taiwan-imported unlicensed toys in an effort to keep up with demand. In the middle of it all, anime and manga distributor Viz is cleaning up.
Viz's release of the first Pokémon video cassette, which features the first three episodes of the Americanized TV series, has sold over 125,000 copies in under three months, and the Pokémon manga has seen four reprintings and sales figures of over 60,000 copies -- an unheardof volume for any manga series, and a record for Viz.
In an interview with GameWeek Magazine, Viz Director of Sales and Marketing Oliver Chin commented that plans for the future include expanding the Pokémon product line, "because we know fans of the property will buy just about anything that's Pokémon-related." He attributed the easy availability of Pokémon printed materials to parent company Shogakuken, which has the print portion of the now $4 billion Japanese Pokémon market.
Plans to bring over more of the manga series are already set in motion, and starting in October, children's storybooks, a "Where's Waldo" style book, and a Pokémon origami activity set.
Meanwhile, the franchise shows no signs of slowing down. Warner Bros. recently confirmed appropriation of rights for the Pokémon movies (which are still planned to hit theaters this fall), and Nintendo announced a new version of Pokémon, Pokémon Yellow, also due out this September.