Pokemon has released its latest financial report, revealing the company shipped 3.7 billion Pokemon cards between March 2020 and March 2021 — the highest number in recent memory. Before 2019 they were shipping an average of 1.5 to 2 billion cards a year, but the last two years have seen double that rate. It’s likely the rate from 2020 to 2021 would have been even higher were it not for printing shortages caused by the pandemic.
I went back and looked through Pokemon’s corporate data as well as the press releases they’ve sent PokeBeach since 2003. Here’s the amount of cards the The Pokemon Company claims they’ve shipped:
- March 2021: Over 34.1 billion cards worldwide in 13 languages and 77 areas
- March 2020: Over 30.4 billion cards worldwide in 13 languages and 77 areas
- September 2019: Over 28.8 billion cards worldwide in 13 languages and 77 areas
- March 2019: Over 27.2 billion cards worldwide in 12 languages and 77 countries and regions
- March 2018: Over 25.7 billion cards worldwide in 11 languages and 74 countries and regions
- March 2017: Over 23.6 billion cards worldwide in 11 languages and 74 countries and regions
- Between 2014 and 2016: Over 21.5 billion cards worldwide in 10 languages and 74 countries and regions
- Between 2004 and 2010: Over 14 billion cards worldwide in 30-40 countries
The Pokemon Company claimed the “21.5 billion” figure numerous times between 2014 and 2016, even when publishing increasing statistics for other areas of the franchise. This suggests they didn’t know the exact figure and only started keeping track in 2017.
The “14 billion” figure was used in press releases for a whopping six years. It first appeared in e-mails from Pokemon USA to PokeBeach in 2004 and continued through 2010. While the number stayed the same, they did update the number of countries the TCG was printed in when e-mailing out the blurb. It gradually increased from 30 in 2005 to 40 in 2010. This suggests they weren’t actively calculating how many cards were printed. It’s as if they did an internal survey one time in 2004 and then just ran with that number for several years.
All of this makes me thinks these TCG numbers are “guesstimates” from the company. The Pokemon Company isn’t publicly traded. They don’t have to release their data or even be accurate about it. Pokemon also took back the TCG from Wizards of the Coast in 2003, leading to contentious legal battles between the two companies. So we don’t even know if the amount of cards sold before that period were accurately saved. However, it’s likely the change in data has become more accurate in recent years.
How many trees had to die for our enjoyment? :p