Pokemon: A Sales History

by Miles Taven, posted on 03 July 2011 / 32,585 Views

Welcome to a new regular feature here on VGChartz, where we dissect the sales - past, present and future - of the biggest franchises in the industry. Today we'll be looking at one of Nintendo's biggest franchises, Pokemon. Watch out for other history lessons on Gran Turismo, Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil coming soon. If you would like to nominate one of your favourite franchises for analysis please leave a comment below; let your voice be heard!

A Brief History

I'll come right out and say it, Pokemon is the most successful videogame franchise of all time, in my opinion. Sure, it's second to Mario in terms of units sold, but Pokemon has done what very few franchises have managed, and that's be successful in a host of other fields, be it TV, collectable card game, and movies. Still, the legendary handheld games came first, and although the movies, the TV shows and the trading cards have long since peaked, the latest iteration of Pokemon - Black & White - has proven the series is still on top, scoring the highest first week sales for any Pokemon game. 15 years since its birth and Pokemon is more than alive and kicking; it's eternal.

Sales Overview - Main Generations



Blue, Red and the Japanese exclusive Green, along with the later enhanced Yellow edition propelled the Pokemon franchise to incredible heights, despite having no previous fanbase. The games from Generation 1 sit above a staggering 46 million. This was always going to be a tough figure for the second generation games to topple, and so sales dipped to 29.4 million, over 16 million less. Despite the enhanced edition being less than 30% in any given generation, Crystal almost sold fewer units compared to Yellow, than Silver/Gold did against Blue/Red/Green. This is likely due to the fact Pikachu was the focus; the poster Pokemon of the franchise really pushed sales of Yellow, wheras Crystal didn't share the same system selling Pokemon. Generation three, which included Ruby and Sapphire, saw a a similar albeit smaller drop, but Emerald actually stayed flat compared to Crystal.

Whilst sales at this point are still very impressive, relative to earlier games it looks like Pokemon is on the decline. Thankfully, due to the DS's massive popularity, sales in generation 4 grew for both the main games and the enhanced version, reaching just over 25 million. Fast forward to the present day and Black & White debuts to the highest ever debut for a Pokemon game. Sales should surpass Ruby/Sapphire and stand a good chance against Diamond/Pearl.  The yet-to-be-unveiled enhanced version for Black & White could substantially boost sales for Generation 5 depending on what route Nintendo decides to take. Already dubbed Pokemon Grey/Gray, appearing on DS and the 3DS would be a very good move; the DS has a big Pokemon fanbase to sell too, and the 3DS could boast better visuals and enhanced gameplay. Pokemon Grey/Gray for the 3DS could sell better than any enhanced version since Pokemon Yellow.

Which Region Loves Pokemon Best?



The chart above conveys just how much Pokemon is loved the world over, since it doesn't dominate in any one region. That said, it's important to note Japan's population is significantly smaller than the Americas and EMEAA. Despite Americas being over 10 million units ahead, Japan is clearly the nation that holds Pokemon closest to its heart. Globally the main generation Pokemon games sit at over 137 million units.

Other Games in the Pokemon Universe





Over the years Pokemon has shown its diversity through console games like Battle Revolution for Wii, Pokemon Snap for the N64, and the popular Pokemon Stadium games. On handhelds there are games such as Pinball, Pokemon Trading Card Game (never a sequel?!) and a couple of remakes from the popular Generational games. Needless to say they sold the best, with over 10 million units each. Whilst none of the non-generational games (including remakes) hit massive sales, the majority fared well, nearly all selling over 1 million units, and most selling over 2 million units. All in all there are 19 non-generational games, and on top of the 137 million units from the main games, the Pokemon franchise sits at just above 200 million units.


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27 Comments

MrT-Tar (on 03 July 2011)

Really interesting article. Saleswise, Pokemon is easily the king of the RPG genre.


ljlrj (on 04 July 2011)

pokemon will be number 1 soon as the best selling franchise ever


cromeros (on 03 July 2011)

Pokémon Rocks!!!...


StarBP (on 03 July 2011)

Hey why don't you do a Sales History of Mario? Oh, and the Japanese sales figs for Pokémon have been utterly amazing... when corrected for population, no "a la carte" (that is, not bundled with ANY hardware of any kind, with the exception of "limited edition" bundles and store offers) game has ever come close in the USA to putting up the numbers that even the lowest generation (R/S) put up in Japan... One person on Serebii Forums said that "[In] Japan, it's basically as if the [90s Pokémon] fad never died." My response, rather lengthy: Actually, based on game sales, it DID "die" just as much as it did in the USA. Only difference, it was more than twice as big to begin with in Japan as it was in the USA, so instead of going from "huge sensation" to simply "well-respected brand", it went from "unreal success" to just a little bit ABOVE "huge sensation". Basically in Japan right now it is just like it was in the USA around the turn of the century. Only 9 video games have ever eclipsed 5 million in Japan... 5 of them are the Pokémon first sets (R/G/B, G/S, R/S, D/P, B/W). (Source: VG Chartz). In just a couple of months, five of the top 7 in Japan will all be Pokémon pairs (there are two older games that have sold an amount slightly higher than B/W's current number in Japan, but less that R/S's very nearby number). Sales in both the US and Japan have reduced by a factor of roughly 1.7 from R/G/B to D/P (B/W is not mentioned because it has not gone through a holiday season, which enhances sales in the USA but not in Japan). See here for Pokémon game sales in the United States (check previous link for sales in Japan). Based on population figures, Japanese sales for any product must be multiplied by 2.4 to get the equivalent American sales totals. That means, in Japan the games AT THEIR LOWEST POINT (R/S... B/W is currently tracking nicely with the higher-selling D/P in Japan, so it is not the lowest point by any means) essentially outsold American R/B sales by a factor of over 1.1 (12.91 million equivalent [a number only one non-bundle game, Wii Play {which actually WAS a bundle in a sense... it came with a Wii Remote}, has exceeded in the USA] vs 11.44 million), and R/G/B in Japan made the equivalent of 24.5 million American sales... a number that only 4 games, all bundled with systems, have managed to even come close to in the USA (Source: VG Chartz). For the version with the three links in it, go to http://www.serebiiforums.com/showpost.php?p=12751845&postcount=12 .


Christian973 (on 04 July 2011)

This franchise is my Childhood! I love Pokemon!! I hope it continues FOREVER!


JapanFan (on 03 July 2011)

My favourite franchise! I hope B/W outsells D/P, it deserves it.


kopstudent89 (on 03 July 2011)

It would be massive if the 3DS gets the grey version!! with some extras on it that would be awesome!


ThePS3News (on 03 July 2011)

Damn. Did not know Pokemon was this big. Especially in the 90's. Red, Blue, and Yellow will always have a special place in my heart. :)


Carl2291 (on 03 July 2011)

While we're on the whole Pokemon franchise here, I can't help but wonder the possibilites Wii U has for a potential Pokemon Snap 2...


killeryoshis (on 03 July 2011)

Pokemon is like the mario of handhelds


MANUELF (on 06 July 2011)

I would love a sales history for Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Mario


JTrotter90 (on 04 July 2011)

Absolutely fascinating. To a generation of people Pokemon is their childhood; now that is success.


TT Makaveli (on 04 July 2011)

Pokemon will NEVER die!


Conegamer (on 03 July 2011)

Nice. I never knew how awesome Pokemon was! You should do MArio next. That would be interesting.


dsage01 (on 03 July 2011)

Great! It would be nice if you could do an article about Gran Turismo and Grand Theft Auto.


usrevenge (on 06 July 2011)

people bought red blue and yellow because it was the fad, but even people who werent fans found the game good, it had the puzzles and leveling system of any great turn based RPG. maybe its just me, but i dont like pokemon now because of pokemon, that part has kinda died, but the series is one of the few games that give u a bang for buck, pokemon gold for example will take u weeks to beat, im sure black and white followed suit...


peachbuggy (on 04 July 2011)

Can't believe how many the original stadium sold. Nearly 6m! Amazing numbers. Pokemon was HUGE then. Doubt if it will ever get near those numbers again. Still very respectable though.


CharmedontheWB (on 04 July 2011)

Wonderful article--I've been waiting for something akin to this for a while now so thank you!!! Another interesting franchise to dissect would be Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest.


CharmedontheWB (on 04 July 2011)

Wonderful article--I've been waiting for something akin to this for a while now so thank you!!! Another interesting franchise to dissect would be Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest.


Turkish (on 04 July 2011)

I demand a new Trading Card Game! One of the best Pokemon games ever! Where is Trading Card Game 2 in the list? It was only released in Japan.


Killy_Vorkosigan (on 03 July 2011)

Finally an article about Pokemon. I played only the GBA one, and its hookability is second to none, bar the childish image. However, B/W totally pwnd Crysis 2 and other game released at the same period, without anybody noticing. I should pick B/W for my gaming pleasure !


darthdevidem01 (on 03 July 2011)

Cool article. Looks like the franchise is shown steady sales with the DS gen....lets see how the 3DS versions do! Personally Ruby/Saphire were the worst in the series so I think quality wise they deserve to have done the worst!! I would like to see you do FInal Fantasy & Metal Gear Solid


Seece (on 03 July 2011)

Darth where did your comment go lol, anyway yes FInal Fantasy would be awesome


darthdevidem01 (on 03 July 2011)

No lol I think thumbs down made it go to 0 n I dunno why this comment of yours deserves 3 thumbs down.


  • 0
Machina (on 03 July 2011)

Second time lucky xD


spurgeonryan (on 04 July 2011)

But will B/W end up as the least bought?


Machina (on 04 July 2011)

Nah, should at least overtake Ruby & Sapphire.


  • +1
WiseOwl (on 03 July 2011)

The cartoon had came and gone. I used to watch the little kids with the trading cards hyped over Pokemon. The cartoon is old but Nintendo keeps Pokemon game alive and it's going strong.


Comments below voting threshold

Michael-5 (on 03 July 2011)

You should have included an estimate for pokemon gold/silver as well as Black/White. I know you said BW may top Diamond and Pearl, but a number estimate would have been nice. Also Pokemon TCG had a sequel, but it was Japan only. As for nominations. Forza Motorsport (non bundled sales have grown exponentially and Turn 10 is growing too), Gears of War (ridonkulous preorders), Uncharted, and Mass Effect. I wouldn't mind seeing Fire Emblem either, but that's likely too niche. Thanks!