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Mattel Interactive tries out a new form in kids software

With the Pokémon phenomenon continuing to pay off big-time (to the tune of US$10 billion worldwide at last count), licensees in all categories are working hard to come up with new brand extensions that will keep the kiddie dollars coming in....
September 1, 2000

With the Pokémon phenomenon continuing to pay off big-time (to the tune of US$10 billion worldwide at last count), licensees in all categories are working hard to come up with new brand extensions that will keep the kiddie dollars coming in. On the software side of things, Mattel Interactive has devised a clever new interactive product line called PokéROMs, each retailing for a mere US$7.99.

Tapping into the brand’s core collectibility hook, these minidisks are specially cut in the shape of trading cards, sporting the right dimensions to fit into the sleeves of the plastic-paged binders kids are already using to store their treasured Pokémon card collections. ‘PokéROMs leverage what kids are familiar with from the Pokémon franchise,’ says Karen Peterson, MI’s marketing director for licensed brands. ‘They know the trading cards, so we purposely created PokéROMs in that shape and featured the characters very prominently on the disks.’ Taking the Pokémon experience to the next level of interactivity, the minidisks allow kids ages six to 11 to play educational games with their favorite pocket monsters, as well as offering multiplayer quiz-offs with five levels of math, science and reading questions.

With little prelaunch fanfare beyond sampling in Reader Rabbit and ClueFinders software and a teaser CD distributed via Pokémon comics and vids, the first series of 10 PokéROMs launched in North America on July 10, featuring popular characters like Pikachu, Bulbasaur and Mewtwo. By far the most popular PokéROM to date, according to PC Data, Pikachu was the eighth best-selling game and education title at press time. The new products have triggered high demand among retailers, says Peterson, and MI is looking to expand its distribution path beyond mass and software retailers to include drugstores and grocery chains in the coming months. ‘The lower price point appeals to all retailers because they can treat PokéROMs as an impulse item for both parents and kids,’ she says, adding that PokéROMs’ smaller blister packaging lends itself to free-standing display units and check-out counter trays, neither of which cut into already-scarce software shelf space.

A second series of the minidisks will hit retail on September 5, with the third one due out on November 15 for a big holiday push that will be fuelled by a national advertising campaign. As part of this same Q4 campaign, Mattel Interactive is planning a loyalty-building promotion, as well as bundling limited edition PokéROMs with some educational titles. Also launching in November are edutainment CD-ROM titles Pokémon Island Rescue for six- to eight-year-olds and Wake Up, Snorlax for the eight to 10 set. Featuring adventures based on the Pokémon animated series, the games also have hidden content that kids can only access if they have certain PokéROMs. And thus the collecting saga continues. . . The new games are the second traditional CD-ROM launches in the Pokémon franchise. Released last November, print activity titles Project Studio Blue and Project Studio Red sold a million units and clinched the top two spots on PC Data’s Top-Selling Home Education Software list for November and December `99.

Peterson says MI doesn’t have any immediate plans to extend its other licensed brands into mini trading card-shaped disks, but doesn’t rule out different CD configurations. ‘We might not necessarily use this particular shape again since it’s really only relevant to Pokémon because of the trading cards,’ she explains. ‘But we’ve been seeing a lot of minidisks and CD-ROMs cut into strange shapes for promotional

opportunities in the industry lately.’

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