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10 reasons why Digimon was not as successful as Pokemon

Terriermon, Rika, Henry, Takato, Gulmon, and Renamon, from left to right (Image via Toei Animation)
Terriermon, Rika, Henry, Takato, Gulmon, and Renamon, from left to right (Image via Toei Animation)

One of the most iconic anime series of the 90s is, without a doubt, Digimon. With more than 10 seasons and several movies, Digimon has been able to keep a small but dedicated fanbase. Unfortunately, it could never compete with its main rival, Pokemon.

But it was never as popular as Pokemon. Why did it start losing viewers during the early 2000s while Pokemon prospered? This list will dive into why Digimon was never as popular as Pokemon.


Digimon wasn't able to achieve Pokemon-level success because

1) Its origins

My Digimon and Tamagotchi Original Collection#Tamagtochi #Digimon @Tamagotchi_US https://t.co/1WlHd6V0Fb

One of Pokemon’s most substantial bases is its beginning as a successful video game franchise. The games quickly gained popularity with their release back in 1996. But Digimon’s origins are a little more obscure.

Bandai released a toy named Tamagotchi the same year. It consisted of a virtual pet that you could take care of by feeding it, playing with it, and cleaning after it. One of the biggest selling points of the toy was its small size, which allowed you to play with it almost everywhere.

June 26 (JST) marks 24 years since the release of the Digital Monster Ver. 1 in Japan, and thus the beginning of the Digimon franchise.Happy birthday Digimon! 🎂🎉🥳#Digimon #デジモン #デジモン24周年 https://t.co/PyVXZtptNv

A year later, Bandai decided to create a Tamagotchi more aligned with boys’ interests since the first one was heavily targeted at girls. This is how Digital Monster came to be, later becoming the inspiration for the Digimon Franchise.

The Tamagotchi never received the attention Nintendo’s consoles did, so the series lost the potential to amass a bigger audience before the anime came out, while Pokemon could.


2) The timing of the release

Today is the 23rd anniversary of the first episode of the Digimon anime airing in Japan. "Adrift? The Island of Adventure!" first aired on March 7th, 1999 and marks when 7 young kids go to camp for the Summer and wind up living in a digital land. https://t.co/CTIVn74M85

Even though Digimon was born as a concept at roughly the same time Pokemon did, it has always been criticized for being a copy of the latter. This is mainly due to the timing of the anime’s release when compared to Pokemon.

Its first anime adaptation, Adventure, came out in March of 1999, almost two years after Pokemon’s anime release in 1997. Its popularity as a Tamagotchi was maintained throughout its release and the beginning of its anime, but it was still not as popular as Pokemon’s games.

"Pokemon - I Choose You!" is the very first episode of the Pokemon Anime Series and it was first broadcasted in Japan on April 1, 1997. This year marks it's 25th Anniversary! An irreplaceable memory for kids of the past two decades! https://t.co/dwzdOgFcBD

When Digimon Adventure came out, Pokemon had been airing for two years, gaining fans left and right. Unfortunately for the lesser-known and newer series, this prevented its anime from gaining the popularity it could have achieved had it come out first.


3) Every season is different

The digidestined from Digimon Frontier (Image via Toei Animation)
The digidestined from Digimon Frontier (Image via Toei Animation)

One of the biggest strengths of the Pokemon anime is the familiarity we all have with it. The premise is always the same. Ash journeys to a new region to reach the local Pokemon League and become a master. We all know and love this concept, and while each season has some changes, they are not something major.

Digimon does not follow this idea. Without considering Adventure, Adventure 02 and Tri, all other seasons are unique. Tamers, the third series, introduced us to a whole new cast. When the fourth arrived, the entire concept of a Digimon partner was not even present.

Hiro and Gammamon, the protagonists of Digimon Ghost Game (Image via Toei Animation)
Hiro and Gammamon, the protagonists of Digimon Ghost Game (Image via Toei Animation)

This has helped some fans enjoy some seasons while despising others, which keeps Digimon’s popularity fluctuating. One season can be an enormous success, while the next could be a massive failure. The risks the franchise takes are appreciated, but they are not always what is needed.


4) Many protagonists

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Pokemon’s Ash is one of the most iconic faces in pop culture. Every anime viewer has heard about Ash or is a die-hard fan. While Pokemon has had some other protagonists in the spin-off series, Ash remains its face.

Digimon is constantly changing its protagonists, with each season introducing us to a whole new cast and a new leader for the group Digidestined. Adventure’s Tai was the first and is arguably the biggest face in the entire franchise, but he was not in the protagonist role until Digimon Tri came out.

Like in the last entry, each protagonist has an unusual reaction from the audience. Some are even more popular amongst the fanbase, but others are boring or repetitive, hurting their season success.


5) Digievolution gimmicks

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Pokemon evolution was kept simple for most of its life until the introduction of Mega Evolution a couple of years ago, while Digimon has been introducing unique ways to digivolve in each season. From DNA Digievolution in the second season to the latest one relating to the heartbeat of the tamer.

Fans love the series because they already know what to expect. When a Pokemon trains and battles, a new evolution arises, and an epic battle ensues.

Favorite digivolution #DigimonAdventureTri #Digimon https://t.co/otWt2DTsdC

New evolutions are usually introduced to us in the first episodes. Even though they keep getting stronger as the season progresses, this drives some away. They love the previous season and evolutions are handles. They are disappointed not to see it again.


6) Convoluted background

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Pokemon has constantly been adding lore to its franchise, but it is not completely necessary to understand its basis. Even the game’s lore is kept simple and purely optional. Its competitors do not have a backstory as simple.

To understand where Digimon came from, why they were created, and many key details of the franchise, you need to know all of its backgrounds, which is not easy.

Time travel, alternate dimensions, and supercomputer gods command their universe. Digimon is a complicated series to get into if you want to understand everything. Pokemon can sometimes deal with difficult subjects, but they do not affect how the series works.


7) Non-linear evolution

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Charizard is one of the most popular Pokemon in the world, and a crucial factor in that is how we saw him evolve and grow during the series. Since his first appearance, Charmander has been a beloved character, and seeing him grow from his initial form into an imposing Charizard was great.

Digimon’s evolution is rarely going to work in this linear way. Digivolution is almost always temporary for the partner. This works in the series context and helps rookie forms get recognition.

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But that is not the case for other evolutions. While some are popular, others are entirely forgotten by those who are not big fans of the franchise. Adding to that, the fact that the creatures can evolve into almost any other without having a set line can make it confusing.


8) Less than stellar games

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Pokemon games have been one of the backbones of Nintendo’s success for a long time. Even when some of them have received bad reviews from the fans, this has not affected their overall success.

Digimon has, unfortunately, had some awful games that have driven away the international fans. These failures have been catastrophic for the franchise because when a game with stellar reviews gets launched in Japan, it is tough for Bandai to bring it to other countries for fear of losing money.


9) Agumon is not as iconic as Pikachu

Who’s your fav tai and agumon or ash and pikachu ? https://t.co/litT2Qf9TI

Agumon is, without a doubt, the most recognizable monster in the entire franchise, and his design is great. It is a small dinosaur that can shoot fire from its mouth and has an endearing personality. Unfortunately, he is still in the shadow of Pikachu.

Pikachus’s design is not only cute and child-friendly, but he can also be cool and powerful. It is a brilliant design that can appeal to anyone, and its exposure over the years has only increased the likeability of this cuddly creature.

Day 30 - AgumonIronically, I'm not a big fan of him xD but Greymon and above is really cool. He really still is the Pikachu of this franchise, so I can't ignore him#drawtober2021 #diginktober #Digimon https://t.co/pKKsJkHNxB

Whoever designed Agumon was clearly appealing to a masculine demographic. Even though he is somewhat cute, he is fierce and wild-looking, and that could drive a lot of young girls away. His long absence from the anime only added to his lack of popularity.


10) Not as kid-friendly

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Pokemon is one of the greatest kid’s shows ever. It can show fighting scenes that are cool to look at but are not overly violent like some other anime. At the same time, it has comedic moments, great character design, and cute-looking creatures.

Digimon is not as inclined to keep things child friendly as its opponent. With designs that can be scary at times, guns, weapons, and borderline inappropriate designs. The series has a lot of elements that can drive away from its younger audience.


Disclaimer: This article reflects the opinions of the writer.

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Edited by Srijan Sen
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