It’s easy to take for granted Pokémon’s wide-reaching success, but it only takes two small changes to create an alternate reality in which Digimon is the primary animal-battling franchise in America.
The first change comes just after the so-called “seizure episode” of the Pokémon anime aired, sending 600 fans to the hospital. This was a huge incident in Japan; Nintendo’s stock dropped 5%, Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare launched an investigation, and the anime went on hiatus for 4 months. What if it never came back from hiatus, instead becoming only a minor footnote in Pokémon’s history?
The second change comes as a result of this hiatus. At the time this episode aired, Game Freak was negotiating with Nintendo of America to bring the franchise stateside, but Gail Tilden, the Vice President of Product Acquisition, had concerns about how well the RPG would sell to American audiences. In our actual timeline, she approved the import with a huge, nationwide marketing campaign. But in this new timeline, motivated by concerns about the anime, the games would have been released with much less fanfare.
Although these are relatively small changes, they create a dramatically different media landscape. Pokémon doesn’t have an overwhelming presence, which means Digimon isn’t instantly labeled an imitator when it arrives a few years later. From there, the changes ripple out to create a profoundly different world – one in which Mother 3 gets an American release but Animal Crossing doesn’t, where DeviantArt is the most popular social media platform, and furries are mainstream.
Watch the video above to experience the full, bizarre timeline in which Digimon won.