AT press time, Pokémon USA was in the midst of narrowing the field of contestants that will compete in its first-ever Video Game Showdown on August 16. The initial group of 512 contenders is being whittled down to just 32 at qualifying events in L.A. and New York, and these skilled gamers will then go on to battle their Japanese counterparts at the Pokémon Trading Card World Championship in Orlando, Florida.
After five years of holding trading card competitions, Pokémon USA director of marketing J.C. Smith says the company wanted to shine a spotlight on the Nintendo DS Diamond & Pearl video games that helped drive the property’s spectacular comeback. (Pokémon trading card and video game sales are up by roughly 750% over the past three years.) He says more than 4,000 kids signed up to do battle, and news of the contest spread virally on Pokemon.com, online ads on gaming sites and Cartoonnetwork.com, blogs and Pokémon-centric chat rooms. He adds that the company is looking at rolling out more game-oriented events in the future.