Nintendo's 'Pokemon' Games Break All-Time U.S. Sales Records

10:05 PM PST 03/08/2011 by John Gaudiosi
Warner Bros./Getty Images

The two new Nintendo DS titles sell 1.08 million copies in the first 24 hours.

Originally launched in the U.S. in 1998, Nintendo's Pokemon video game franchise shows no signs of slowing down, even if the Hollywood films ended their box-office run in 2003. The two new Nintendo DS games, Pokemon Black Version and Pokemon White Version, sold 1.08 million copies in the U.S. on March 6. That shatters the U.S. one-day record for the franchise, which was 780,000 held by 2007's Pokemon Diamond Version and Pokemon Pearl Version games.

According to VGChartz.com, gamers pre-ordered 1.48 million copies of the two new games. The site forecasts first-week U.S. sales to fall in the 2.25 million-2.75 million unit range. To date, Nintendo has sold more than 200 million Pokemon games worldwide, making it the second most popular franchise for the game giant behind Mario.

"One of the main reasons Pokemon remains so popular today after all of these years is because it was developed to be a great role-playing game from its core, rather than just to be a quick phenomenon," said Seth McMahill, Pokemon Product Localization Specialist, Nintendo of America. "We've added new Pokemon and features over the years, but the core battle mechanics have remained somewhat the same and that's allowed the game to stick around for a long time."

Pocket Monsters was created by Satoshi Tajiri and published by Nintendo in Japan back in 1996. The game's name was translated to Pokemon for the American audience. After the initial Game Boy titles Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue became international hits, Warner Bros. Pictures released the first animated theatrical movie in 1999. Pokemon: The First Movie earned more than $85 million domestically and another $77 million internationally.

But by 2001, Pokemon 3: The Movie pulled in only $17 million in the U.S. and $51 million internationally. Dimension Films stepped in and released two more Pokemon movies theatrically, but Pokemon 4Ever ($28 million globally) and Pokemon Heroes ($20.8 million worldwide) failed to find an audience. The theatrical franchise ended in 2003, but new movies have continued to go straight to DVD since then from companies like Buena Vista Home Entertainment and also have aired on cable channels like Cartoon Network.

The new Pokemon Black Version and Pokemon White Version feature more than 150 new Pokemon for players to catch, train and battle. The never-before-seen Unova region gives players a whole new world to explore. For the first time in the series, in-game environments change with the four seasons. The games also introduce triple battles and rotation battles, which give players even more choices when battling.

Another new feature in the new games is the Wi-Fi random matchup, which allows players to battle others from around the world over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection service without needing to exchange Friend Codes, opening up even more opportunities for players to test their teams in battle.

These new Pokemon games give Nintendo an added boost before the release of Nintendo 3DS on March 27 in the U.S. The new games will play on the (glasses free) 3D gaming system. Nintendo has an installed base of 47 million Nintendo DS portables in the U.S. and the Pokemon franchise has given the game maker a steady influx of young new gamers with each new title, while retaining a large group of older gamers who have grown up with the franchise.

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