Gamescom was full of big surprises this year. We never expected to see an actual mosh pit at a video game conference, but Trivium’s Matt Heafy literally split the room in two as part of a live performance for Metal: Hellsinger. Rather than revealing a new video game, Metal Gear’s creator, Hideo Kojima, revealed a new podcast in partnership with Spotify, and we finally got a proper look at Dead Island 2. But the one thing we didn’t expect was the show coming to an electrifying finish as The Pokémon Company teamed up with BMW to reveal a Pikachu-branded MINI Concept Aceman Car.
Before we dive into why we find this collaboration so interesting, it’s important to highlight the strength and sheer size of the Pokémon brand. License Global’s annual report placed The Pokémon Company International in the fifth position in its top global licensor rankings after it made $8.5 billion from licensing deals in 2021 – that’s more money than Hasbro and Mattel. 2021 was a big year for Pokémon as the global franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary, leading to many of its trading card products selling out at launch. In fact, trying to catch these 25th-anniversary products at retail price was just as difficult as trying to catch a Mewtwo with a regular Pokéball.
This collaboration ticks a number of boxes, though. First, this is an electric car with a futuristic design themed around Pokémon’s most iconic character: the electric mouse, Pikachu. Second, of all the car styles that Pokémon could have based this collaboration on, it’s chosen a Mini, and the word Pokémon is a stylistic abbreviation of Pocket Monsters. Finally, not only is this collaboration incredibly on-brand, you’d have a hard time shouting down electric vehicles given their green credentials, so this is great positioning for The Pokémon Company.
But why would the brand best known for its iconic game series, anime and trading cards choose to align itself with a car manufacturer? The answer to this is two-fold and this collaboration is mutually beneficial to BMW and The Pokémon Company. Some of Pokémon’s biggest fans have grown up with the franchise since they were children in the ‘90s. Many of them will now be in their 30s, and if they just so happen to be in the market for an electric vehicle, then this is the best thing they could ask for – as long as they have the disposable income to splash out on what’s essentially a drivable Pikachu.
This is The Pokémon Company widening its reach into an older demographic with larger disposable income. It’s been happening for some time now through collaborations in a diverse range of sectors, particularly fashion, with partners including streetwear and high fashion brands such as Gucci, Adidas, Criminal Damage, Balmain, Levi, and many more.
BMW is going after the opposite end of the market, as this post on the BMW blog explains: “Ever since BMW revived the MINI brand, it’s been trying to capture a younger generation of car enthusiasts.” Not only was BMW the main sponsor of Gamescom, but the Pikachu MINI car has an interactive OLED display with animations running throughout the dashboards and a built-in mobile cinema that allows passengers to experience their favourite Pokémon films or video games on the go. Don’t game and drive, though – we don’t think Officer Jenny would approve of that.
Stephanie Hurst, head of MINI, believes, “This is how [BMW] reach a whole new target group at Gamescom 2022, as an event for modern fandom, gaming and pop culture.”