A weird cultural anomaly in global Pokemon trading

In a long history of completely dorky posts, this may be my masterpiece.

Using the new worldwide trading system in Pokemon Diamond, I acquired two each of the three starting Pokemon. This is remarkable because players are only given access to one of the three at the beginning of the game and they can’t catch any more during the game. The only way to get more of them is to breed them, which is labor intensive and probably takes over 30 minutes of play time to create. In previous Pokemon games I’ve played, I’ve never had a starting Pokemon other than the one that I chose at the beginning of the game.

So what did I trade online to get all these starting pokemon?

MagiCarp, one of the worst(*) and most common Pokemon in the game.

How did I get relatively rare Pokemon that takes over 30 minutes to acquire in exchange for one that takes me less than 2 minutes to catch?

All the Pokemon that I’ve received in trades have been Japanese, which makes sense because they’ve had the game for over 6 months already. Many have probably completed the game. Breeding starter Pokemon is one of the most common types to reproduce, so it’s understandable that they would have starters available for trade.

But why for MagiCarp? Don’t they suck? And why haven’t the Japanese traded each other MagiCarps for 6 months? What makes mine valuable?

I believe it’s because my Pokemon have English names. I believe Japanese players will make unbelievably great deals simply to have Pokemon with an English name.

Japanese players can’t enter English characters for their Pokemon names. (And American players can’t enter Japanese text.) English words are “cool” for some reason in Japan and since they need American players to trade their Pokemon to get ones with English names, they will make excellent deals (for Americans) to get English-named Pokemon. I believe the game has also sold around 6 million copies in Japan and probably about a million in the US so far, so, theoretically, the demand far outstrips the supply at this point, making sellers market.

I read about people making these crazy global trades on NeoGAF and didn’t believe it until I tried it myself. Sure enough, it works. Quickly too, it probably takes about an hour before one of my trades is complete. I don’t know when the Japanese market will be saturated with English-named Pokemon, but right now the market is hot. It seems that the Japanese will give almost any Pokemon that is easy to breed for an early game catch-em-in-the-dozens Pokemon with an English name.

I love thinking about game economies and I (obviously) find this situation fascinating. Nintendo’s simple decision to not allow Japanese players to enter English text has created this strange anomaly where the value of an object is dramatically changed by the characters used in its name.


  • MagiCarp is a crappy Pokemon, but he eventually evolves into Gyrados which is quite good.

The preceding post was posted on Joystiq as news.

All I have to say is

That’s the coolest thing since Kit Fisto had meat dreadlocks.

There goes the market. Don’t you just love that?

WTF, we’re being monitored.

Stuff on here ends up on Kotaku pretty regularly too.

I like how they said “Quarter to Three” and didn’t link it.


Serebii offers what might be a more precise explanation: http://serebii.net/diamondpearl/foreign.shtml

Ha, now that makes a lot more sense. Thanks!

My 7-year-old son really likes Pokemon.

Damn, it’s real tempting to arrange up some fake news. It would only take collusion with a few regulars to whip up a very convincing thread about something totally false.

It seems like a very QT3 thing to do also.

I’m game.

Let’s not talk any more about it in public, though. You never know who the vampir- I mean, Joystiq Staffer, might be.

Shifty eyes

Totally down for it.

Right after reading this I put up a MAGIKARP with demands for a CHIMCHAR. I never got a bite in 24-hours. Maybe all the news sites latching onto this phenomenon already ruined it?

Did you specify the gender? I’ve gotten 2 chimchar and 2 turtwig already for magikarps. I put them up looking for either gender and level 9 and under.

Female starters seem to be rare from what I can gather (I’m still a pokenoob)

I just now received a japanese piplup for my magikarp. The trade was only up for about an hour.

Yeah, I put any sex, any level. Argh, must just be unlucky. :(

I think female starters are rare because its the females that can be readily bred to birth new starters. Only way to do it with a male is to “do it” with a Ditto, which may have to be transferred from a GBA cartridge (not sure if they’re natively in Diamond/Pearl).