Pokémon fans can now chat with Pikachu on Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
- Pokémon Co. International is recognizing the 22nd anniversary of the first Pokémon games' debut in Japan in 1996 with several mobile promotions, including a Pikachu-themed app for voice assistants Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, according to Mashable.
- Pikachu Talk lets "aspiring Pokémon trainers" chat with the yellow creature on Alexa-enabled devices in all countries and on Google Assistant devices in the U.S. Once the skill is enabled, users can ask Pikachu questions, though his responses include non-English exclamations like "Pika" and "Pikaaaaaaaa." This is the first time the company has dabbled in voice-assistant content, Mashable said.
- Pokémon is also running limited-edition Snapchat Lenses that let smartphone users decorate their photos with themed emoji and effects. The first Lens will feature effects inspired by the four-legged Bulbasaur character, followed by Charmander and Squirtle in the next few days.
Pokémon's experiment with Pikachu Talk shows the growing importance of voice-enabled platforms as a creative tool to engage communities around a certain topic or product. Customizing the voice for digital assistants could be a new wrinkle in these engagements. For the Super Bowl, Amazon released an ad, where celebrities Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B, Rebel Wilson and Sir Anthony Hopkins filled in for Alexa, who has lost her voice. Ramsay's voice later showed up in a new skill.
The annual celebration of Pokémon Day is a fun way to reach a community of fans through a variety of media, including voice-enabled platforms for the first time this year. Though Pikachu responds to conversations on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant with reactions of a somewhat limited vocabulary, the Pikachu Talk app doesn't let users order Pokémon products from e-commerce sites like Amazon, but there's always next year, as the company rolls out new games, rewards or fun content each year on Feb. 27.
Several reports last year said Amazon’s U.S. market share for smart speakers was between 70% and 76%, outpacing top competitor Google. More than 56 million smart speaker devices are forecast to ship worldwide this year, compared with about 30 million in 2017, according to Canalys.
However, Pokémon is pushing merchandise on the Pokémon Center online store, including bigger collectible figures and pins. The store will begin selling pins of characters Dialga and Palkia this week, with a new pair of pins going on sale each month through November. The latest Pokémon film, "Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!" is available for the first time on Pokémon TV, and will also be available for iOS and Android this week only, per Newsweek.
In a nod to those loyal fans that still play the former mobile smash-hit Pokémon Go, players can earn triple points for capturing a special Pikachu character wearing a striped purple hat, but only through the afternoon of Feb. 28.