By Andrew Mata
Nintendo is re-releasing its three first Pokémon games — Red, Blue and Yellow — for the 3DS handheld console Feb. 27, the same day as the original Japanese release date 20 years ago.
Pokémon has been a cultural icon ever since its initial release in 1996 when Red and Green launched in Japan. Red and Blue reached the U.S. two years later.
It has been one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises, earning more than $1.5 billion in revenue each year, according to License! Global.
Select Toys R Us and GameStop stores will be selling exclusive merchandise to celebrate the franchise’s birthday.
Toys R Us stores will be giving out free special edition Pikachu and Magikarp cards along with a poster featuring the first 151 Pokémon characters to customers.
GameStop will give free posters with any purchase of Pokémon merchandise.
As an added incentive, Pokémon is releasing a free in-game Pokémon each month. They’ll be released on either the Nintendo Network or at GameStop starting this month, with the first being Mew, a Mythical Pokémon.
The Pokémon franchise has sold more than 260 million games worldwide, and plans on releasing a wearable device later this year for Pokémon Go, an app that will utilize your location to find Pokémon in your area and allow you to catch and trade them or duel with others, like a digital trading card.
As of March 2014, Pokémon has sold over 21.5 billion trading cards in 74 countries with some of the most rare cards selling for as high as $100,000.
The original card set is slated to be re-released as well, but so far they’re sold exclusively in Japan, which may further increase the value of a first-edition set.
Pokémon is now streaming full episodes and movies, using the Pokémon TV app, as another way to celebrate.
Nintendo has hinted that they may reveal other surprises to celebrate Pokémon’s anniversary at E3 and the Game Developer Conference later this year.