You know this to be true.
By now, you’re surely aware of Pokemon Go, the “augmented reality” mobile game that allows players to catch Pokemon in the real world and then train them to do battle. The fictional creatures can be found in your house, at the office (there’s a “Zubat” hovering near my desk this very moment), in the park, or on virtually any street. Pokemon are everywhere.
Pokemon Go, too, is everywhere. Since launching in the United States last week (July 6), the game has been downloaded about 8 million times, topping the Apple app store and Google Play store faster than any other game ever has. It’s added a preposterous $11 billion to Nintendo’s market value almost overnight. And it’s forced people in other countries to attempt elaborate workarounds in order to access the game everyone’s talking about. (For now, it’s officially available in only the US, Australia, and New Zealand.)
What can Nintendo, which published the game and owns The Pokemon Company, do to capitalize on the rapid and widespread popularity of Pokemon Go? Why, they can make a movie! (A prediction that Forbes also made recently.)
All the pieces align. Consider:
In May, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said that the company is going to invest in film production and work with studios on developing projects based on Nintendo’s game characters. In the years since the 1993 Super Mario Bros. adaptation, Nintendo has been reluctant to lend its intellectual property to Hollywood, with one exception—Pokemon. Nintendo has helped make dozens of animated Pokemon movies, as well as a popular TV series.
Multiple film studios, including Legendary, Warner Bros. and Sony, are said to be bidding for the rights to turn the Pokemon franchise into a major motion picture.
Nintendo and The Pokemon Company may elect to make a Pokemon movie that has nothing to do with the popular game—or it could do both. The timing is fortuitous: Whichever studio wins the bidding war would have the first crack at capitalizing on Pokemon Go’s popularity. It could conceivably be either an animated movie like the ones before or a live-action one, starring real people trying to find Pikachus in their garages.
The Angry Birds movie, based on the game of the same name, made $342 million worldwide on a $73 million budget, good for the second highest gross ever for a film based on a video game. And despite its popularity, the Angry Birds never really had the type of massive and global name recognition possessed by Pokemon.
If Tetris can be a trilogy, then it stands to reason that Pokemon Go could, for better or worse, be a film too.
The game is already more popular than dating app Tinder, and will probably overtake Twitter’s number of daily active users soon. It’s the epitome of a “viral hit,” and one that has news organizations around the world (like this one) reporting on it from several angles, including as a business, technology, and culture story.
There are literally swarms of people taking over public spaces around the US to play the game. Anecdotally, it’s the only mobile game I can ever remember taking such a hold of my friends, whom you wouldn’t consider to be “gamers.”
Nintendo’s press representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the possibility of a Pokemon Go movie.