Pokemon Black/White version 2 (Credit: Nintendo)Though nobody saw Pokemon's success coming when the first game hit unsuspecting streets in 1996, in retrospect it shouldn't have been too hard to predict. Tapping into kids' timeless love of building collections, playing with cute critters, swapping things with friends, and fighting each other, it was an immediate hit.
Not much has changed. The latest pair of Nintendo DS games, Pokemon Black and White Versions 2, launch this weekend, and they're all but guaranteed to be best-sellers, too. Pikachu might be a cuddly little guy, but he pulls in quite a profit -- over 200 million Pokemon games have been sold so far, putting the series second only to Mario as video games' biggest earner.
It's not just a sales juggernaut, though -- the Pokemon pan-media powerhouse is also a treasure-trove of trivia. Here are a few Pokefacts you might have overlooked.
Pokemon can be hazardous to your health.
Countless video games are plastered with epilepsy warnings, but when Pokemon triggered a seizure epidemic in Japan in 1997, it wasn't the game that was to blame.
Instead, it was the Pokemon TV show -- and specifically an episode entitled "Computer Warrior Porigon", which featured intense patterns of flashing lights. After it aired, over 700 children and adults developed epilepsy-like symptoms and were rushed to the hospital.
They can get sick themselves, but it's not such bad news.
Even Pokemon aren't invulnerable to the odd brush with ill health. Or at least, not since Pokemons Gold and Silver, which introduced a disease known as "Pokerus" (short for Poke-virus, you see).
Don't be afraid: this Pokeplague isn't as scary as it sounds. The only effect is has is to double some of their stats, at least until it wears off. The chances of catching it are slim, but make the most of it when you do: like any other virus, it's contagious, and can spread to your other Pokemon, so a bout of Pokerus can be a happy surprise. It's a one-shot deal, though: once cured, your 'mon will be immune to it in the future.
Ever wonder why there are no farm animals in the Pokemon world? Many Bulbasaurs, Pikachus, and Vulpixes, but never a chicken, cow, or pig to be seen? What do these people eat?
Put it this way: they ain't vegetarian. According to the background text in a number of the Pokemon games, not only are Pokemon regularly eaten by the general public, some are considered delicacies. We're looking forward to the next Pokemon spin-off: a Cooking Mama/Pokemon hybrid that sees players hunting down various tasty species and preparing them against the clock, Iron Chef-style. Psyduck a la orange, anyone?
The mystery of MissingNo.
Bug-type Pokemon are familiar to any player, but there's one special 'Mon that takes the concept to a different level.
He's only in Pokemons Red and Blue, the first two games in the series, his name is "MissingNo," and he's the result of a bizarre bug discovered by Pokefans around 1999. If you can trick the game into trying to display a Pokemon that doesn't exist in its database, MissingNo is the result.
Sightings come with a variety of bizarre side-effects, including graphical corruption, wrecking the game's Hall of Fame feature, and, more usefully, increasing the quantity of items in your inventory. Despite warnings from Nintendo that encountering him could permanently destroy your save-games, MissingNo became one of video gaming's most famous glitches.
Some Pokemon are worth as much as $20,000.
Pokemon isn't just a smash hit video game. Along with the TV show, the movies, and the vast range of toys, it also spawned a tremendously popular trading card game, which in turn has given rise to one of the most valuable trading cards in existence.
The Pikachu Illustrator card is the rarest find in the game -- the belle of the Pokeball, you might say . Never officially sold, never released in English, and worth somewhere around $20,000, the cards were given away as prizes in a Japanese drawing contest and only four are thought to exist. Good luck catching one of them.
They can get to be a bit of an obsession.
Lots of people like Pokemon. But some people really like Pokemon.
Such as Lisa Courtney, of Hertfordshire, England. She's the holder of the world's largest collection of Pokemon memorabilia, with an awe-inspiring stash that totaled 12,113 items when Guinness last counted them in 2009. They take up the whole house, she told Britain's Telegraph newspaper in 2010, and last we heard she was still going. It's OK, Lisa. You've probably caught them all by now. You can stop.