PokéFever has taken the world by storm following the release of Pokémon GO. The app has already become the most downloaded mobile app of all time, pushing Pokémon's publicity through the roof. But, apparently, the franchise just isn't popular enough to warrant a cameo at the Olympics. Last weekend, the Summer Games' closing ceremony took place and showcased several Japanese game mascots to celebrate the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, fans were stunned to find Pikachu missing from the star-studded stage, especially since sources like The Telegraph said the Pokemon’s appearance was “inevitable.” And, now, sources are speaking out and saying the franchise was left out intentionally.
According to Buzzfeed Japan, pocket monsters were kept out of the closing ceremony on Sunday because of they lack popularity - when it's compared to other Japanese brands, that is. An anonymous source at the Tokyo Olympic & Paralympic Committee said organizers selected characters like Mario and Hello Kitty to welcome the Summer Games to Japan due to their worldwide popularity. While Pokémon is well-known, the committee felt the franchise wasn’t big enough internationally. And, what’s more, the team also began working on the closing ceremony back in January before Pokémon GO was even released.
Of course, that’s not to say Pokémon won’t make an appearance at the upcoming Olympics. If the franchise keeps its popularity up, then it’s very likely the creatures will take part in the next opening ceremony. Japan has already said the Tokyo Games will feature “cutting edge science and technology,” something which they showed off at Rio's closing ceremony. Given Pokémon GO’s impressive augmented-reality features, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Japan hype the franchise’s tech even more so.
Despite Pokémon's snub, Tokyo’s closing stage did go over well with most fans. After all, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did pop up at the event through one of Mario’s iconic warp pipes. The official came out dressed like Mario after a CG animated clip was shown of Nintendo’s mascot leaving for Rio. The plumber's appearance is certainly understandable as Mario is arguably Japan’s most famous cultural export. Created in the 1980s, Mario has starred in over 200 video games, giving Nintendo all sorts of 1-UPs with gamers. Over 40,000 people from all over the world gathered for Rio’s closing ceremony, and each of them cheered when the overall-clad character popped on screen. Clearly, the character has got pull with fans of all backgrounds.
Other characters such as Pac-Man and Tsubasa Oozora also featured in the closing ceremony, further demonstrating how closely connected Japanese culture is with anime and video games. Fans can expect to see even more of these franchises feature in the 2020 Olympics, and hopefully, Pokémon will also get its chance to go for gold then. So, it looks like Ash Ketchum better start training for some gym battles more intense than that of the Elite Four!