4Kids and the Kids WB launched Pokemon in the U.S., and the packager is hoping that lightning will strike twice. Certainly Yu-Gi-Oh has the potential to be a Pokemon-size hit, especially in the card category, because the series is all about gaming in the first place. The Yu-Gi-Oh card game features frightening monsters, dark fantasy storylines, and nubile female characters that have a strong appeal to preteens who want to graduate from the puerile niceties of Pokemon. Since 1998 Yu-Gi-Oh has completely dominated the CCG market in Japan with some 3.5 billion cards sold versus some 300 million Pokemon cards sold during the same period.
With prime exposure on Saturday morning secured for Yu-Gi-Oh, the next step in the building of a boom will be the release of Yu-Gi-Oh-related merchandise. Konami, the Japanese company that controls the rights to Yu-Gi-Oh, is first and foremost a manufacturer of video games. Konami, which has sold some seven million Yu-Gi-Oh videogames in Japan, plans on having Yu-Gi-Oh video games on sale here in the States by this fall. Industry sources have indicated to ICv2 that Konami will retain the CCG rights and is intent on creating and manufacturing an American version of the super-hot Yu-Gi-Oh collectible card game itself, rather than licensing the rights to the game to an American publisher. This is a somewhat risky strategy, but the potential payoff is huge, and it doesn't appear that Konami wants to share.
The Yu-Gi-Oh card game is darker and more exciting than the Pokemon CCG. In Japan the game has been a big hit with boys 10-14, many of whom started out playing Pokemon but quickly switched to Yu-Gi-Oh. Here in the U.S. 4Kids and Konami were careful not to step on Pokemon while that phenomenon was still going strong, but it's possible that they may have waited too long before bringing Yu-Gi-Oh to the American market. When Yu-Gi-Oh was introduced to Japan, Pokemon was still huge. The older portion of the Pokemon demographic shifted allegiance to Yu-Gi-Oh, and the whole Yu-Gi-Oh fad took flight. The question for Konami's operation here in the States is, can the company interest kids in taking up a new collectible card game with the Pokemon phenomenon very much on the wane?