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Pokémon Go creates rush for vintage games, toys, gear

July 18,2016 10:07

As millions of Pokémon Go fans take to the streets to play the summer's hit smartphone game, others are hitting their keyboards or stores to buy suddenly-hot Pokémon merchandise. From Pokemon Pikachu backpacks to vintage video games, the Go craze ...

Fans of the Pokemon Go app offer their tips on how to master the game on #TalkingTech with Jefferson Graham.
Video by Michael KofskyAs millions of Pokémon Go fans take to the streets to play the summer's hit smartphone game, others are hitting their keyboards or stores to buy suddenly-hot Pokémon merchandise.From Pokemon Pikachu backpacks to vintage video games, the Go craze will likely lead to a licensing-fee windfall for  Nintendo and others that  can cash in on the revived interest in the Japanese animated characters.As of last week, Pokémon-related merchandise sales had risen 91% in little more than a month, before Pokémon Go had become the summer phenomenon, according to Adobe Digital Insights, which tracks sales on the top 500 e-commerce websites in the U.S.Walmart says Pokémon searches on its website have doubled. Target has "seen an uptick in interest in our Pokémon products," says spokesman Lee Henderson.The website of both giant retailers lists dozens of Pokemon merchandise items, including shirts, pajamas and illustrated books. Especially in demand: licensed toys, Nintendo 3DS video games, and external battery packs to feed the game's intensive power needs.Even though Pokémon may have been out of the news in recent years, it has provided a steady source of merchandise sales — about $600 million last year worldwide of licensed consumer products, says Karina Masolova, executive editor of The Licensing Letter. And that figure doesn't even include other Pokémon products, like video and trading-card games, animated movies and TV shows.Kyoto-based Nintendo is a major beneficiary. It's part owner of Niantic Labs, the developer behind the augmented reality mobile game, and also owns about a third of Pokémon Co., which controls the merchandising of the colorful monsters."Over the years, Pokémon has either been a saving grace or the footnote to Nintendo sales," Masolova says. The licensor is Pokémon Co. International, composed of Nintendo, developer Game Freak and another company called Creatures, Masolova says.Pokémon Go, which leads players into the streets to try to catch characters that show up on the screen in the player's actual surroundings, is credited with forcing gaming nerds to exercise and discover cool new locales in their city. But the trekking has also been accompanied by news reports of some who were robbed, shot at, or accidentally plunged off a seaside cliff in southern California while playing the game.Those risks, and an outpouring of warnings from police and safety agencies about using caution while wandering around fixated on monster-catching, has done little to slow demand. Online polling company SurveyMonkey estimates nearly 26 million Americans played in just one day last week. Even before its launch in Europe this weekend, it had been downloaded more than 20 million times, according to researcher Sensor Tower.All that has translated to strong demand for items in the real world.GameStop credits Pokémon Go for a 50% increase in Pokémon merchandise sales. With "Pokemon experts" in the stores, Eric Bright, senior director of merchandise, says the retail chain sells "an incredible amount of Pokémon merchandise."The biggest seller is plush toys, Bright says, "matching characters they're picking up on the game." Pokemon backpacks are also hot — even though school won't be starting for at least a month for many kids.CaveGamers, an online seller of games on eBay and Amazon,  has experienced huge demand for old Pokémon games. "We are running really low on stock," says owner Bobby Brockmueller.A remake of the first Pokémon game, called Pokémon FireRed, had been selling at $48 on Amazon. Late last week, it was going for $90.Brockmueller was in Guatemala the week Pokémon Go was released . He returned to a U.S. market that was suddenly mad for all things Pokémon."I was blown away," Brockmueller says.Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/29MZFJV

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