Monday, October 02, 2006

Mew?! Mew Two!!

Awake and ready by the crack of noon, the bright Saturday sun spoke of a great day ahead.

Nintendo was sponsoring an event with Toys R Us to celebrate the release of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon for the Nintendo DS-- but the real treat was the rare chance to obtain a Mew for the many versions of Pokémon proper on the Gameboy Advance! Since Mew hasn't been accessible in the US versions of the game since the move to the GBA, this was a "must attend" for any true Pokémon player!!

A little before 12 I popped into the Toys R Us over in Van Nuys. There's another one closer to me in Burbank but I just thought I'd try my luck somewhere else and sneak back to Burbank for a double dip if I had the time. This turned out to be a wise choice. There were already a handfull of kids hanging out and I got to make a few trades before the event got underway. Probably my most daring trade was my Jirachi for a MewTwo. If you know the game, you can judge that for yourself.

The crowd grew quickly, and it was great to see so many folks around with all their GBA's linked up, trading and battling with each other. I of course drew many eyes of amazement and befuddlement with my bitchen' Pokémon Emerald Rayquaza Gameboy Advance SP. Now I play alot of Pokémon, but I don't even rank next to the young tikes who's (it would appear) sole purpose in life is to amass maxed-level armies of Pikachu and friends. One kid came up to me and said, "Do you want to battle? I have the best Pokémon in my whole school, you're probably going to lose."

Apparently it was also Toys R Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe's "birthday," so we all had to wait through some ridiculous marching and singing around the store before they let the Pokémon event get under way. Finally they shore up the line (which eventually went out the door) and started up the trading. This could have been handled a little more efficiently, as the process to trade Mew was merely one GBA cartridge packed to the brim with Mews given to a Toys R Us employee. The trading process itself involves linking up your Gameboy to theirs, entering a special trade room, and trading one of your disposable Pokémon for the coveted Mew. It takes about 2-3 minutes a person, and has to be done one person at a time. This didn't go so bad for me since I was near the head of the line and they were enforcing one Mew per customer.

I got my Mew onto my Pokémon Ruby version, then made a few more trades with some folks waiting in line. I wanted to trade as much as I could, because I never get to do this and it's my only chance at getting some of the other version specific Pokémon. Not because I don't have the time, but more so that I don't make a habit of lingering where children gather; not alot of Pokémon goes on around bars and pool halls.

With many Pokémon trades accomplished, I thought I'd try my luck back in Burbank to selfishly snag another Mew. The Burbank store (also in the midst of a Geoffrey celebration) was far less organized and clearly wasn't ready to handle a crowd for fans of "some silly videogame." Big, big mistake.

This grates with me because I feel that any retail establishment has a responsibility to reasonably know its product, marketplace, and consumers. Toys R Us is a huge retailer of videogames, they have an entire section of their stores dedicated to them. Pokémon is not only the undisputed top selling GBA game, this past year Pokémon Emerald version has been the top selling game on any platform, at times even topping Madden 07 on the monthly charts. Even a cursory dip into Pokémon knowledge could have helped the Burbank store manager better anticipate what would be required, and prepare appropriately.

There was quite a line when I arrived, but I thought what the hell, and hunkered down. But the line didn't move. For like, 20 minutes. Others said this had been the case for some time. I overhead one employee tell another that they had to start cutting customers off with only one trade. Ah ha... the line wasn't moving because the guy up front was letting greedy kids trade as many Mews as they wanted (Hey, I at least had the courtesy to go to another store, that's not greedy!) This caused the snails pace. To top it off he wasn't familiar with the process or the rules, something Nintendo posted on their websites and e-mails, and surely had to have provided to the stores. I don't blame the guy but he had the kids running the show and taking advantage of it full steam. But the big problem arose with the slow moving line and the manager announcing that the event ended at 3:00, and that was it, sorry for the inconvenience. Well that did not go over well with a line full of parents who had been there for hours and kids who desperately wanted this super rare Pokémon. One, I'll remind, that was coveted on the original Pokémon games from years ago and is simply not available now except for events like these.

The manager feigned responsibility and insisted there was nothing she could do. This was not true of course, there were several things she could do. After what was probably a most unexpected onslaught of disgruntled parents, she caved in, capped the line, and promised everyone already in line would get their trade. She may have been ambushed, but from her comments she clearly did not understand the purpose of the event or what was even going on. Had she taken some time to familiarize her staff with some very basic tenets, the event would have gone much more smoothly and even bolstered the store's standing. That's what promotion is, it is as local as it is global.

The line did get to moving to a steady pace. I passed the time trading with the kids and poké chit chat with some generally interested parents eager to understand what they were supporting. Pokémon is a fascinating phenomenon, it's one of my all time favorite games. It is good. Even though I was tired from the wait, it was eventually my turn and I procured a second Mew for my Pokémon Fire Red version. I figure any gathering of people with a shared enthusiasm is a good experience, even if there are snags on the way. As I left the line the manager asked, trying to be friendly, "Was it worth it?" It was a silly question and all I could respond was "Well, I'm here, so yeah."

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