Is there a lack of cooperation in the Pokémon community?

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  • Friday, May 25, 2007

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This editorial has been written by Zhen Lin. It expresses the views of the writer, not necessarily those of Bulbagarden networks.
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This is an editorial by Zhen Lin.
About the author
Avatar Zhen Lin.png

Zhen Lin is the managing editor of Bulbanews, the former editor in chief of Bulbapedia, and a system administrator for Bulbagarden.

It has long been said that the Pokémon fan community is not a unified one. The evidence for it is undeniable: the existence of dozens of sites with the same goal, and often, the same content. There is no discernible logic in this: why should a fan choose one site over another functionally identical one? In the real world, where functionally identical goods and services can be distinguished by price, a rational consumer would choose the cheaper one. But this is the internet: price is not a factor. How, then, can a rational fan (does such an oxymoronic creature exist?) choose between two functionally identical sites?

Having many functionally identical sites is not only divisive for the fans, it is also a waste of manpower and effort on the part of the webmasters. It is, to coin a term, a diseconomy of competition. No doubt many of our readers are familiar with the laissez faire argument of competition introducing incentives for producers to improve the quality of their goods and services, but surely they are also familiar with the term economies of scale? Instead of having a dozen webmasters each doing every aspect of site maintenance and content creation, why not specialise and cooperate on a single site? For one thing it would cut down on the duplication of effort.

At this point, some of our readers might point out that ego, philosophy and aesthetic preferences get in the way of cooperation. I must admit that is true. Yet the latter two are the very things that allow fans to distinguish between what would otherwise be functionally identical sites: I do not think there is a person who will say that there is no difference in the atmosphere of the Serebii forums, the Bulbagarden forums and the PokéCommunity forums, yet most people would probably agree that the three big forums serve essentially the same purpose: the discussion of Pokémon in all its forms and topics related to Pokémon.

But enough talk of the pros and cons of having many sites doing the same thing. Is there a lack of cooperation in the Pokémon community? The answer is clearly no: all the big sites are the product of cooperation between their respective staff members. The analysis of game data in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl was the joint effort of several people — pika of POKEGUIDE, Eevee of veekun, Arty2 of Legendary Pokémon, Pipian, Filb, and myself, to name a few. The controversial Save Our Voice Actors movement would be nothing if not for cooperation and coordination. Bulbapedia, which recently reached 5,000 articles and 30,000,000 page views, is the epitome of collaboration between Pokémon fans. We are even beginning to see the emergence of grassroots-level international cooperation, thanks to the Wi-Fi features of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.

However, on another level, the answer is yes. Large-scale inter-site cooperation is disappointingly rare. Although there is a dizzying network of affiliations between Pokémon sites, very few of these are truly meaningful. International large-scale cooperation between Pokémon sites is rarer still. To the best of my knowledge, there are no less than five people or groups of people attempting to create some kind of alternative to the Global Trade Station. Even something as basic as the numbering and counting of episodes is not universally agreed upon - for example, according to some counting schemes[1], DP033, which aired two weeks ago, is the 500th episode of the television series, while others[2] count DP035, which aired just yesterday, as the 500th episode. Still others give that honour to DP032.[3]

Is this lack of inter-site cooperation a problem? It is hard to say. The Pokémon community seems to be healthier than ever, if the sales reports for Pokémon Diamond and Pearl are to be believed: the most recent numbers show that 5.1 million copies of the Japanese version[4] and 1.7 million copies of the North American version[5] have been sold. On the other hand, the webmasters of the Pokémon fan sites are getting older, busier, and increasingly have less and less time for Pokémon. There may yet come a time when there are not enough dedicated staff members to keep each of the massive sites functioning and orderly.