Analysis: Pokémon appears on iPad. It’s super effective

The Pokmon Company is bringing its PC trading card game to iPad. SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen explains why it’s a positive move

Following the confirmation that Pokmon: The Trading Card Game (TCG) would be released on the iPad, Nintendo’s share price rose four per cent.

After a period of disappointments, this seems to be a ray of hope for the gaming giant. SuperData has speculated Nintendo could port some of its major IP to mobile. Central to the announcement is the observation that The Pokmon Company operates relatively independently from Nintendo, and that this decision to launch on iPad does not mean the platform holder is mounting a broader strategy for this platform. But there is a large upside to this release.

Collectible card games, both physical and digital, are hugely popular worldwide. Forecasted to total an estimated $4.7bn (2.9bn) in global sales this year, publishers like Wizards of the Coast and Blizzard have managed to adapt to digital quite effectively. The US market is made up of $1.1bn (673m) in physical card sales, compared to $479m (293m) in digital. In an important market like the US, the addressable audience for collectible card games stands at almost 19m people this year, with 11m on digital platforms.

We’ve also observed remarkable success from both existing titles like Magic 2015 and new releases like Hearthstone. By comparison, the PC version of Pokmon: TGC generates roughly the same average per paying player (see table below), but has a substantially smaller audience base. Granted, its release suffered from a bunch of snags and still manages to generate well over a half a million every month. But the clear opportunity for Pikachu and friends is on tablets.

Pokmon is a really strong brand. 17 theatrical films have been released, in addition to well over 800 TV episodes. But here’s what will make it a success on the iPad: high-schoolers, its core audience, generally offset a lack of spending power by being able to quickly disseminate games among a very large group. We’ve already seen what this crowd can do for titles like Flappy Bird.

Pokmon’s success relies on collectibility. Players compile a collection with their favorite characters. The question arises if, like Magic, the digital version will adhere to the retail releases. Updates can only be released digitally when they are in stores. This is a long-term strategy, preventing the franchise from fragmenting and losing cohesion. As kids generally have limited access to credit cards, a carefully planned monetisation strategy will be key. In a recent study we found that younger gamers will spend 51 per cent more on a premium purchase, compared to in-game spending. The game will likely launch with a hybrid strategy, allowing people to upgrade and buy booster packs to beef up their deck.

Considering the three to four month delay between theatrical releases in Japan and the US, it’s likely Pokmon on iPad will launch with the new film this Christmas. We’ll be sure to catch this one.

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