In Japan, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have sold 1,418,168 copies in the week following their release, and according to charts from Japanese sales tracker Media Create, a sizable portion of those—especially early purchases—were made by players around their early 20s. Those same charts reveal that fewer younger players picked up the games than last year’s Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. For a remake like Ruby and Sapphire, this is not a tremendous surprise, as remakes, by nature, tend to attract old fans more than bring in new ones, but the pattern is not exclusive to Ruby and Sapphire.
The charts in the gallery show the increase in players of various age groups for Diamond and Pearl, Heart Gold and Soul Silver, and Black and White represented as a percentage over the previous paired releases. As the generations pass, the bulk of players move from the younger age groups to older ones, while fewer young players have picked up the newest entries in the series. Nintendo seems to be rather aware of this, too, as Black and White featured older protagonists than was traditional and was more clearly aimed at a more mature audience. Many of the spin-off titles also suggest Nintendo’s support of this growing up of the Pokémon demographic, with Pokémon Conquest, according to retailers, selling mostly to adults, and Pokken Tournament being aimed at the older Tekken and 3D fighter audience.
Combined with another trend, however, this could ultimately be bad news for Pokémon as a franchise. The sales of the last two generations have been in decline, with the current sixth generations selling worse than the fifth, and the fifth generation selling worse than the fourth. As inevitably happens when an audience ages, many fans are growing out of the series, and without Pokémon‘s usual appeal to younger players, the gaps made by those leaving are not being filled fast enough. For Pokémon sales to jump back to what they were in generation four or to grow beyond it, the series will need to find a way to attract new players, which has traditionally been done by appealing to the young demographic of children from preschool to third-grade.
Now, that said, it is unlikely Pokémon will fall into oblivion should the trend continue. Sales to young audiences have not halted altogether and are not likely to anytime soon. It could, however, mean a significant weakening of the franchise as a whole, with sales settling once they have fallen enough that the fewer young players can sustain it as the older target audience grows out of it. Still, that can hardly be seen as an ideal future for The Pokémon Company or Nintendo, so they will have to come up with a way to revitalize the youth’s interest in Pokémon once again.