Nintendo expands the Pokemon universe with NFC technology, and plenty of new toys for you to buy

Pokémon Rumble U

For nearly twenty years, Nintendo has resisted making its home consoles the main hub for the Pokémon empire. Pokémon is for handhelds like the Game Boy and Nintendo DS, while the consoles receive Pokémon spin-offs like Pokémon Colisseum and Pokémon Snap for the Nintendo 64, Gamecube, and Wii. The billion-dollar franchise has done just fine in this regard, and with Pokémon X and Pokémon Y due out on Nintendo 3DS at the end of the year, it looks like Nintendo isn’t planning to break the pattern just yet. Pokémon Rumble U, the very first game in the series for Nintendo’s struggling Wii U, could flip the Pokémon business on its head though. It’s more than a Pokémon game; Pokémon Rumble U is Nintendo’s answer to Skylanders.

Japanese magazine CoroCoro (via Serebii) revealed details about the upcoming downloadable Wii U game. First announced in February, Pokémon Rumble U appeared to just be an HD sequel to the WiiWare game Pokémon Rumble released in 2009. This new report claims that it will be the first Nintendo Wii U game to let players buy little action figures of the characters to use in the game by scanning them in the Wii U GamePad, just like in Activision’s Skylanders and Disney’s upcoming Disney Infinity. The game itself will cost 1,800 yen, or just about $18, but the figurines will cost 200 yen, or about $2. It’s the sort of affordable pricing that made Pokémon trading cards one of the most successful toy lines of the late ‘90s.

Nintendo is only now starting to publicly discuss NFC technology’s role in the Wii U. Even as Skylanders’ popularity has risen over the past two years, Nintendo has roundly ignored the NFC functionality of its Wii U GamePad. The first sign that the Wii U pad would even include NFC tech was a leaked trailer for Rayman Legends that hit the web in April 2012 before the game was officially announced. After the game debuted properly at E3 2012 though, no NFC functionality was ever officially discussed by Ubisoft and no Nintendo games leveraged the tech. Nintendo now seems to be changing its tune on NFC.

On Mar. 5, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto spoke to Polygon about NFC’s role in the future of Wii U. “With NFC, that’s a feature that everyone that owns a Wii U can take advantage of,” said Miyamoto, “So that’s where we’re putting our priorities right now. We’re hoping that in the near future we’ll be able to show you something that will take advantage on Wii U and people will be able to enjoy that.”