In an article in the 'Business' section of Monday's New York Times Will Wade described the recovery of the Pokemon franchise thanks to a coordinated program of releases across a number of categories including trading card games. According to the Times, sales of the Pokemon TCG so far in 2007 have already surpassed all of 2006 and, according to Pokemon U.S.A., 'sales are expected to triple last year's total.' This reinforces the ICv2 finding that Pokemon is once again the #1 TCG, with sales in the mass channel, in particular, 'on fire' (see 'Strong Spring Strengthens Retailers' and 'Game Market Has Solid Summer').
The Pokemon push began in earnest in April with the launching of the Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl games for the hand-held Nintendo DS system. The June 4th debut of the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl anime series on the Cartoon Network was the top-rated show for boys 6-11 and continued Cartoon Network exposure along with the popularity of the video games has driven sales of other Pokemon products. Also in June Pokemon USA chipped in with its version of the Pokemon TCG Diamond & Pearl that added 104 new Pokemon characters to the game. According to the recently published ICv2 Guide #46: Games, 'Diamond and Pearl shipped into mass channels in quantities bigger than anything since Yu-Gi-Oh! near its prime with sales up a significant multiple over last year's in major retailers.' The Pokemon TCG is also doing better in the hobby channel--Barry Calhoun of GTS Distribution told ICv2 'We're seeing stores that probably haven't picked up Pokemon in the last few years have come back on board with Diamond and Pearl.'
Pokemon U.S.A. is also being much more selective about the number of merchandising licenses for the property, which suffered from a plethora of products from a wide variety of manufacturers during the original turn-of-the-century Pokemon boom that contributed to the brand's overexposure. Jakks Pacific has taken over the master toy license from Hasbro and has gradually expanded its offerings with a new strategy based on using more Pokemon characters. Toys R' Us plans to open Pokemon boutiques in 585 stores and licensed merchandise sales for the Pokemon property are expected to rebound to nearly $50 million this year from under $4 million in 2006.