With millenials Pokémon and Sonic celebrating milestone birthdays this year—20 and 25, respectively—their master toy licensee Tomy, is serving up new and exclusive merch catering to the brands’ legion of loyal fans.
For Pokémon—the Game Boy video game-based franchise that spawned one of the most successful cross-category consumer products programs of all time—Tomy is releasing a new two-inch mythical figure (with Poké Ball) and plush character each month from February to December.
“In the Pokémon universe, mythical characters are very rare and very valuable,” explains Jamie Rosenbaum, director of marketing at Tomy. She adds that all the new items will come in premium gold packaging with a special 20th anniversary emblem. “I think it’s something collectors will really love, as well as young kids.”
The new mythical figures will be available for digital download in both existing and new Pokémon games coming out this year, such as the three new Nintendo 3DS games (Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue and Pokémon Yellow), Pokkén Tournament for Wii U and the Pokémon GO mobile game. The corresponding figures and plush characters, meanwhile, will be available through retail exclusives at Toys”R”Us and Game Stop.
For the months with Game Stop releases, fans will need to physically go to one of their retail locations and log on to the store’s wifi network in order to download the characters. “A big thing for us is getting consumers into the store,” Rosenbaum explains.
Communicating with fans about where and when they can get the new toys will be very important, she adds, so Tomy created a new website called Tomy Collections, which will serve as the hub for all Pokémon-related info this year.
In addition to the mythical characters, Tomy is also creating a specialized Pikachu, the mouse-like creature at the heart of the franchise, in both plush and figures. It will also be featured in retail exclusives throughout the year.
“A couple of those will be exclusive to Walmart, and we’ll have some Pikachu plush available to other mass and specialty channels,” she says. “Outside of never being mass-produced previously, the plush themselves are being made with a new, crushed velvet fabric. Also, we’re doing a lot of the Pikachu plush with new patterns, and the new Pikachu figures will all have a pearlescent finish—some small details that elevate them a little above what you see in the core range.”
Switching gears to Sonic now, the super-speedy hedgehog, along with friends Tails and Knuckles, is also getting the new figures and plush treatment from Tomy this year. And for the property, what’s old is new again.
When Tomy first took the Sonic master toy license in 2013, its latest iteration Sonic Boom had just been introduced, so Tomy has only ever made Sonic characters with a more modern look. “All of our 25th anniversary products are going to be retro—the classic 1991 stylized characters,” Rosenbaum says.
Like Pokémon, core Sonic products target kids six to 12, but because of both properties’ multi-generational appeal, Rosenbaum expects collectors of all ages will be keen to get their hands on the new retro items. “Tomy is known for highly detailed figures, so we think fans will be really out to get those new collectible items,” she says.
Tomy’s new Sonic items include a three-pack of three-inch figures (Sonic, Knuckles and Tails) that comes with commemorative coins, two-figure packs with comic books, single-figure packs, as well as eight- and 12-inch plush.
All new items will be released globally in the fall, with the 12-inch plush, and the one- and two-figure packs exclusively carried by TRU. The other two items will be available to both mass and specialty retailers. And accordingly, Sega is planning to release new video games this year to celebrate the franchise hitting the quarter-century mark, although the company has been tight-lipped about when and how many.