Posted: April 20, 2021 | Updated: May 3, 2021

Nuketta Wobbuffet

“Wobbuffet. The Patient Pokémon. If attacked, it inflates its body to pump up its counterstrike. It is never first to attack.”

Do those lines look familiar? You may recognise them as a jumble of Pokédex entries. A Hoenn fan favourite, Wobbuffet’s main claims to fame are its anime prominence as Jessie’s loyal if unpredictable sidekick, plus its credentials as a potent metagame force with Mirror Coat and signature move Counter.1Well, and its comic relief broadcaster role on Pokémon Sunday during the show’s Hoenn era. But who remembers that?

This besides, Wobbuffet is prone to occasional cameos in sidegames and spin-offs, recently as an unlikely black-tailed waiter in Pokémon Café Mix or, going back a little ways, as a hardy foe in arcade hit Pokémon Tretta. Where, to everyone’s surprise, Pokémon HQ selected it as the bold opener to Pokémon XY’s in-life event season and the subject of an equally bold crossplay experiment involving a custom “Nuketta” transfer machine.

Tretta? Nuketta? Crossplay? Worry not. I’ll walk you through it. Pull up a comfy chair, grab a cuppa and settle in. It’s quite the tale. Wooooobbuffet!

Let’s start with a bit of backstory. What even was Tretta, anyway? If you’re at all like me, you were completely oblivious to the Pokémon-themed arcade game’s existence. Don’t sweat it, though – it’s perfectly logical. As an entertainment product very much developed for the tastes of the Japanese domestic consumer market, Tretta never reached the West.2It did, however, make its way over to Hong Kong and Taiwan – and reportedly also to Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines – nearish the end of the arcade game’s lifecycle. Its lifecycle was pretty short, too: just four-ish years (July 2012 – July 2016) that bridged predecessor Pokémon arcade mainstay Battrio and successor Ga-Olé.3If contemporary forum discussions are anything to go by, it’s probably for the better that Tretta didn’t cross the Pacific. A Project Pokémon poster going by the handle … Continue reading

Tretta Cabinet

Introducing: Tretta!

Stationed at PokéCenters and gaming centres, the Tretta devices were officially known as “amusement machines” – what we would call arcade cabinets. The fungible medium that made them tick were Pokémon-portraited, thick square plastic discs the size of a bottle cap known coterminously as ‘Tretta pucks’. Their purpose: for the price of ¥100/game, one could interface up to three pucks with a Tretta cabinet to create a virtual representation of your Pokémon(s), and use them to wage high-octane 3-v-3 turn-based beatdown battles against AI. Each species of Poképuck boasted a fixed set of base stats, which together with one or multiple hardcoded attacks determined battle outcomes – with a smattering of hit-or-miss RNG to lend a modicum of pseudorandom variability.

However, these battles were merely a means to an end: if the player successfully defeated their AI opponent, to the victor went the spoils. In other words, the player got the chance to “catch” the three bested Pokémon and receive one as a physical Tretta disc that the cabinet would conveniently spit out. In this manner, the player would grow their collection. These mechanics made for an infinitely expandable system and gameplay loop, and through its four-year lifecycle Tretta came to encompass over a thousand unique pucks in 21 standard expansions and innumerable limited-time releases. Check out a typical Tretta gameplay video directly below, courtesy of YouTuber “momopika”.

Now, read between the lines a little, and you can make out the inherent gacha element that fed right into – and off – Japanese gaming culture. With not(ice)ably simpler gameplay mechanics than predecessor Battrio, Tretta’s primary audience consisted of elementary and junior high schoolers. However, the game’s collect-’em-all subtext – fuelled by a certain intractable randomness to the Pokémon one would encounter in the game – also attracted susceptible adults prepared to invest copious amounts of Yen. Add to that a fanbase grandfathered in from Battrio (and since passed down to Ga-Olé), and you’ve got the recipe for an addictive arcade hit.4Not shying hyperbole, GamesRadar dubbed Tretta “the best moneymaking idea since Pokémon”. See here.

Which Tretta most certainly was. We need only look at the 2channel bulletin board to find long sequences of archived Tretta threads comprising tens of thousands of posts over multiple years containing vigorous discussion of Tretta gameplay, collectionism, and online rankings. Fansites sprung up left and right, including the high-profile pokemontrettafan.com. Numerous Tretta-oriented blogs like tamakichi1968’s (here), bakuretu_trainer’s (here) and hono_yuta’s (here) reported with dedication on puck acquisitions and the latest developments in Trettaland.5A solid number of Tretta blogs, it must be said, have unfortunately vanished unarchived upon Yahoo Blogs’ suspension of service in December 2019. We can find hints of such regularly referenced … Continue reading

In an anecdotal sense, it was evidently not uncommon for suited-up salarymen to be spotted indulging themselves in guilty-pleasure rounds of Tretta.6As one Project Pokémon user wrote: “I also saw business men (sic) playing Tretta though. It’s weird.” Commentating on his completionist impulses regarding the then-current 48 puck Fes 1 set (フェス1弾), one such individual confessed a touch apologetically: “Of course it’s a children’s game, but… I’m addicted. I already got the Legendary Mewtwo by defeating it resoundingly, but I haven’t met … Charizard and Genesect yet. Take these two, and the set is complete… I want to complete it and stop already. Haha.7「もちろん子供のゲームなんですけどもね・・・おっさんハマってしまいました(笑) (…) … Continue reading The above is merely one example out of many, if one that reflected a broader trend. The point is: plenty of Pokéfans of all ages played, and enjoyed, Tretta.

Wobbuffet Tretta pucks

Wobbuffet Tretta. Image credit: pokeaogtytnsy

By Autumn 2013, a year and a bit after Tretta’s debut, the arcade game had burned through 7 expansions totalling some 350 unique pucks. Afforded no time to take a breather, fans eagerly anticipated the arrival of Tretta’s eighth set, due for release November 28, 2013. This Tretta Fes 3 (フェス第3弾) expansion was headlined by such Pokémon as Reshiram, Zekrom, Kyurem and Mew, and for the first time it included a Wobbuffet Tretta. Wobbuffet, known in as “Sonans” (ソーナンス) in Japanese, came in both “Normal” and “Super” versions, one somewhat more powerful than the other, sporting marginally different portraits: one faced left in salute, the other faced right. (I hesitate to use the term “artwork”.) Both variants knew Counter, a move that made Tretta Wobbuffet always go second in arcade battles, but returned more damage the more damage it had absorbed that turn. Quite a few players struggled to subdue the opposing Sonans that began showing up in Tretta cabinets upgraded to the latest version; watch YouTuber Meteorstream777’s Kyurem get dismantled by one here.

Nuketta Prototype

Nuketta Prototype, as shown on pokemontretta.com

Other than forming a formidable foe to be reckoned with, there was nothing particularly unusual about this Tretta Wobbuffet. And even retrospectively, I can discern no indication whatsoever – not even the foggiest hint – that Sonans was soon to be conscripted as the subject of a very special crossplay experiment. But it was, for on November 15, 2013, a page went live pokemontretta.com that announced a magical-sounding event distribution whereby, through a purpose-built slot-like machine nicknamed “Nuketta”, Tretta Wobbuffet were to be lifted from their containing pucks and deposited into players’ Pokémon XY games. Whoa. That hadn’t been done before! Perhaps as a visual aid to readers, the article provided a picture of a Nuketta prototype, the positioning of whose knobs and dials indeed differed from the later mass-produced machine.

Now, while this first ever Tretta-to-XY distribution experiment came as a bolt from the blue to practically everybody, due to what looks like suboptimal publicity, it was perhaps a less impactful bolt than it could – and rightly should – have been. I’m not quite sure why tretta.com was given the scoop – a website much less trafficked than Pokemon.co.jp, which didn’t carry an announcement until over a month later, on December 20, and began tweeting about Nuketta Wobbuffet in January, well over a month info its distribution run (see below).8Not that the January 15 @pokemon_cojp tweet drew much attention, with just 14 total likes (as of April 2021). (We’re in the Twitter age now!) Interestingly, parts of the internet had caught wind of Nuketta Wobbuffet and known a little ways in advance that the campaign was coming. If I understand it correctly, a email blast from Tretta developers Tarakatomy to – I think – game store managers across Japan leaked to the public in late October 2013, and news of it wound up on Tretta blogs.9See this 2channel thread: https://toro.5ch.net/test/read.cgi/arc/1384221002/4-103?v=pc

Nuketta Wobbuffet, CoroCoro Monthly

CoroCoro Monthly, December 2013. Via: Webry

Right. As so often, trusty CoroCoro Monthly delivered synchronous coverage of the event campaign. But the scope of its promotion, too, was nothing to write home about. The December 2013 issue (released November 15) was dominated by a serial code (?) giveaway for CoroCoro Garchomp – XY’s very first event Pokémon. Naturally, a fierce-lookin’ Chomp graced the cover, not the migratory Wobbuffet, and news of the Tretta crossplay campaign was tucked away deep inside the chunky magazine, crammed into a little corner of its own. Fans that stumbled upon the relevant page, however, did find that CoroCoro fortified tretta.com’s detail-poor initial announcement with a few explanatory images. The article presented silhouetted Tretta pucks scrubbed of their resident Wobbuffet and showed off pictures of Sonans’ arrival on a Pokémon XY game, but left it to readers to imagine the “Pokémon Nuketta Mystery Machine”10なぞのマシン「ポケモンヌケッタ」 responsible for getting from A to B. Not that I suspect CoroCoro was deliberately vague about the precise appearance and operations of the device, mind you. Rather, Tarakatomy had presumably not released a definitive image of the Nuketta machine at the time CoroCoro’s December issue was typeset and locked down for preprint.11To support this idea, the original November 15 post to pokemontretta.com explained how the Nuketta machine was still under development: … Continue reading

GetTV Nuketta Wobbuffet

Anchor Shokotan (top); Tretta Campaign Plan (bottom). Stills from: Pokémon Get☆TV #9, via pocketmonsters.net

It fell to Pokémon Get☆TV (ポケモンゲット☆TV) to step in and whip the Nuketta publicity campaign into shape, spread the word and answer fundamental questions about the distribution.12Pokémon Get☆TV was the successor show to Sinnoh’s Pokémon Sunday and Unova’s Pokémon Smash. Rebranded for Generation Kalos, the lovely Shoko Nakagawa was still the show’s chief … Continue reading As an incredibly popular Sunday morning Pokémon variety show, their message reached a portion of XY fans who – predictably – had missed the initial announcement on tretta.com.13For example, in the wake of Get☆TV’s broadcast, blogger “pokeaogtytnsy” wrote: “On December 1st, “Pokemon Get TV” (announced) the … Wobbuffet Campaign. I … Continue reading In the show’s Shokotan-anchored news segment of episode #9 (aired December 1, 2013), Get☆TV informed its audience of the imminent “Pokémon Tretta Campaign Plan”. It went on to remind viewers exactly what was Tretta and where and how they could play it (plenty of machines at PC Yokohama!), before dropping the kicker of an XY transferrable Sonans. To top it off, Get☆TV recruited a bloke in Cooltrainer getup to introduce the Nuketta machine, giving fans their first video demonstration on how to operate it.

As it was, the process seemed simple enough. A first step was to place one’s 3DS on the ledge-like platform in front of the Nuketta machine’s instructions panel, behind which was hidden an infrared sensor. Next, players would fire up Mystery Gift from the XY Main Menu, and navigate to ‘Receive via Infrared’. Then for the fun part. Beneath the machine’s glossy Tretta logo – playfully altered to read “Nuketta” instead of Tretta – was located a slit in which to insert Fes 3’s Normal or Super Wobbuffet Tretta. Having done so, fans were to pull the flashy red-knobbed lever on the machine’s left-hand side and have it begin to emit infrared transfer signals receivable by the 3DS. As Wobbuffet arrived in XY, the Nuketta machine ejected a blank Tretta shell showing only the silhouette of a saluting Wobbuffet, so as to signify that the Pokémon had been removed and transferred.14Which, incidentally, rendered the puck useless for future games of Tretta. Even the puck’s side got washed of the name “Sonans”. Of course, a little make-believe was involved here: Wobbuffet did not actually undergo transfer; rather, the Tretta piece acted as a key that triggered a machine prompt to run an infrared communication distribution script. Users also did not truly receive their metamorphosed original puck back; instead, Nuketta swallowed the inserted Tretta piece and dispensed a new, especially designed scrubbed one. But let’s not be too pedantic and take away the magic. (We’ll take a closer look at a homemade clip of the machine in action shortly.)

GetTV Nuketta Demonstration

Clockwise, from top-left: (1) Introducing Tretta; (2) 3DS in position, Wobbuffet is inserted; (3) Blank Sonans puck is ejected; (4) Wobbo arrives in XY! Stills from: Pokémon Get☆TV #9, via pocketmonsters.net

At this point, you may be sitting on a question or two. Such as: Why? Why did Tarakatomy’s and Pokémon’s event designers and tech engineers go through all this trouble to create a unique experience? Surely there was more to it than relieving the burden on distribution staff through automation; after all, a much, much simpler puck-for-serial code exchange could have accomplished that too. The Nuketta machines were overwhelmingly for show, ie. to support a Tretta-to-XY transfer illusion. Moreover, the Toro-TPC tag team clearly spared no effort in designing them: the Nukettas’ hand-crafted housing, custom logo, and knobs, dials and handles invoking a spaceship-like arcade feel betrayed that much thought and care had gone into the project. It’s hard to say with certainty, but my sense is that the Nuketta Wobbuffet campaign was a carefully conceived play towards Tretta-XY fanbase cross-fertalisation. By turning the presentation up to 11 and getting both Tretta and XY fans excited, the hope may have been to inspire the former to pick up and play the Pokémon 3DS games, and the latter to dabble in Tretta. Of course, the rising tide of resulting commercial gains would float both boats. In turn, this raises another question, namely why Wobbuffet of all Pokémon was chosen for this all-important purpose. But we’ll circle back to that later, as well the discussion of whether the stratagem worked.

You might also be wondering where could fans partake. Ah! As the tretta.com website communicated (and CoroCoro seemingly did not), this Wobbuffet campaign, bestowed the impressively prolix official title of “Let’s Take it to Pokemon XY! Wobbuffet Escapes Campaign!”15『ポケットモンスター X・Y』に連れて行こう!ソーナンスが抜け出しソーナンス!キャンペーン was to be held consecutively at three sets of in-life distribution locations and occasions. The Nuketta machines were to make their maiden appearance at the Pokémon TCG Battle Festa,16 「ポケモンカードゲーム バトルフェスタ」 a pair of single-day Pokémon get-togethers hyperfocused on TCG play on levels from learner to league, the first on December 15 at INTEX Osaka, the second on December 23 at Tokyo Big Sight. Following this, the contraptions rotated over to all four instances of the Winter 2013-14 World Hobby Fair17次世代ワールドホビーフェア’14Winter, where both the Pokémon franchise and Tretta developers Tarakatomy had a routine presence.18For an introduction to Japan’s annual World Hobby Fair(s), see also this article on Hobby Fair Manaphy. Dates and venues were Nagoya Dome on January 19, Tokyo’s Makuhari Messe on January 25-26, Fukuoka Dome on February 2, and Osaka Dome on February 9. Finally, the campaign would hit each of Japan’s eight nationwide PokéCenters sometime between January 20 and February 16. Overall, then, fans were given ample opportunity to snag a free crossplay Sonans.

Now then. Did they? Weeell. I’ll walk you through it, chronologically, starting with December 2013’s TCG Battle Festas. To readers of our Sinnoh series, the name “Festa” will sound familiar. (See the retrospectives of 2006 Winter Festa and 2007 PalCity.) It’s worth noting, however, that while the pair of Kalos Pokédays borrowed the Festa name associated with Pokémon mega-events of yore, in substance, Festa 2.0 was unable to rival its predecessor’s all-absorbing funfair-esque mass family appeal. Nor did it arguably seek to, focussed as the event was on the TCG alone.19Up until 2012, these TCG events were called “Battle Carnival” (バトルカーニバル); the change in nomenclature seemed to deliberately hearken back to the Sinnoh glory days. An … Continue reading Which, all things considered, made it a peculiar location to demo the Nuketta machines. (If you have ’em, flaunt ’em, Poké-executives must have thought!) Certainly, the Nukettas succeeded in attracting the attention of at least one fan. After reading CoroCoro’s December issue, Webry blogger “34102238” (hereafter “Webry”) posted excitedly about the first round of Nuketta distros at TCG Festa, writing: “I must go!” The thought of heart-sinkingly lengthy queues to grab a plain-ish Sonans was, however, off-putting: “I have a feeling that the nightmare of large 8-hour queues like the [event] Pokémon delivery on Pokémon Game Show’s opening day will be reproduced”.20Special Champion’s Pokémon like Lance’s Dragonite, Steven’s Metagross, Cynthia’s Spiritomb and Alder’s Volcarona had been given out for Pokémon Black & White 2 … Continue reading, wrote Webry. And if the prospective XY Wobbo wasn’t all that special, Webry reasoned, they might instead only try and procure the stripped shell as a collectible through other means.21Writing: “特別なソーナンスじゃないなら抜け殻トレッタのみオクで狙うのが、時間と交通費の無駄がなくて得策かなぁ…?”

Pokémon TCG Festa

Tranquility is the name of the game at Festa. Image credit: Webry

When push came to shove, self-proclaimed “Wobbuffet enthusiast”22「ソーナンスマニアの自分」 Webry bit the bullet and trekked to Tokyo Big Sight’s Festa anyway.23Webry’s fantastic account of Tokyo’s TCG Festa is found here: https://34102238.at.webry.info/201312/article_21.html Here, they quickly found their queuing fears unwarranted, for the TCG Festa was pleasantly, if almost painfully placid, with very little in the way of buzz or hubbub by the entrance nor in the main event hall. Looking over Webry’s photographs, they breathe none of the electric, turbocharged people-packed atmosphere so characteristic of Pokémon mega-events. Large sculptures of Xerneas and Yveltal, reminiscent of the Dialga and Palkia statues two generations prior, struck solitary and unloved figures. Kalos’ new trio of starters looked equally lonely, with no trace of ecstatic selfie-shooting kids. I can’t help but feel a little twang of sadness across time and space on taking in these desolate scenes – particularly so in comparison to the halcyon days of Sinnoh Festas. It’s very tempting to attribute some of the TCG Festas near somnolent quiet to the franchise’s then-ongoing slow recovery from Unova fatigue. Or perhaps Tokyoites simply couldn’t be bothered to show, after August’s highs of the Pokémon Game Show. This Festa was but a TCG-oriented event, after all.

Nuketta Machines at TCG Festa

“It’s quiet. Too quiet.” Image credit: Webry

Nor did Tokyo’s denizens care much for Tretta, apparently. Webry located the event’s Tretta corner without much difficulty and discovered a battery of four Nuketta machines lined up side-by-side. Save for a lonely-looking attendant, the place was deserted, its traffic cones and chains that marked out wonderfully optimistic waiting areas for each Wobbuffet dispenser reinforcing the forlorn mood. Feeling somewhat self-conscious, Webry walked up to a Nuketta machine, placed their crimson 2DS in front of its infrared sensor, inserted their Sonans Tretta and pulled the scarlet lever, taking a photo just in time to capture Wobbo’s arrival in XY. Would the machine also work if any old Tretta puck were inserted, they wondered? Also in Tokyo, “pokeaogtytnsy” took advantage of the quiet to collect five Sonans from five Tretta for five software copies.

Wobbuffet Arrives

Sonans arrives! Note the red alarm and mysterious dial. Image credit: Webry

Now, it’s unclear whether Osaka’s Wobbo scene was any livelier, but it did produce quite possibly the sole video record of the Nuketta machine in action. In a clip by passionate fan “nenassy” (here), a young boy can be seen placing his 3DS in position in front of Nuketta machine with the aid of an event staffer, then firing up Pokémon X to prepare it for infrared data transfer. All the while the machine’s large mechanical lever sits conspicuously in the foreground, begging to be pulled. The staffer helps the boy insert his Wobbuffet Tretta into the top-left of the machine, which is completely out of reach for the pint-sized child. (Design flaw!) Excited, the kid finally gets to pull the ostentatious handle. A light on the Nuketta machine starts flashing red, and Wobbuffet can be seen arriving on the 3DS, “transferred” from the Tretta piece. Watching the totality of these steps, they feel like something out of a Power Rangers movie, and I had half expected to hear an alarm start blaring when the lever came down.

World's Tickets Banner

One shot, one opportunity. Image credit: Sylphwatch

Anyhow, let’s leave Festa behind and turn our attention to the four World Hobby Fairs held in Nagoya, Tokyo, Fukuoka and Osaka. Did the Nuketta perhaps get a warmer reception here? Well… At these Winter ’14 Hobby Fairs, like so many WHFs before it, entertainment industry giants like Nintendo, Sega, Konami, Bandai Namco and Level-5 were out in force to promote the latest in their signature hit series and peddle merch. As one might expect, The Pokémon Company (TPC) had a strong presence at all four venues, too, their booth enticing visitors try out playdemos of the freshly released XY and snap up franchise games and goodies. Somewhat unusually, however, TPC organised a multitude of miscellaneous Pokémon activities running parallel to WHF. For one thing, WHF formed the backdrop to 2014’s official “Pokémon Ryoh” (ポケモン竜王戦) TCG and VGC tournaments. Regional qualifying rounds held at each WHF venue culminated in all-Japan grand finals on March 22, with tickets to the international World’s 2014 Pokémon Championships in Washington DC on the line.24Additional qualifying rounds took place in Sapporo and Sendai, plus a last chance tournament the day before the finals, for a total of seven venues. In a twist on the usual format, VGC competitors … Continue reading Notably, the all-Japan finals were broadcast live to NicoNico and Kids Station – something that had been sorely missing from the PalCity World’s qualifying tournament series six years prior.25For more details of this Ryoh battle event, see here.

TPC’s presence at WHF offered visitors a lot more than just high-stakes competition, however. Casual play, for instance. A dragon-themed “Battle Corner” invited fans to try TCG and VGC battling in player-vs-player and player-vs- staff formats.26Two consecutive PvP wins earned one an XY-themed storage folder. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this initiative seems to have attracted few participants: “There are no people”, commented pokemorning at WHF Nagoya, who jauntily trounced his opponent with a PC Battle Tournament [LINK] team that included Goodra and Malamar. At Tokyo’s Makuhari Messe, that same Battle Corner didn’t look terribly popular either.27Perhaps there were simply more interesting things to do at WHF, such as checking out the playable demo of MarioKart 8, then slated for imminent release on WiiU (e.g. here, here and here). But no matter. In the spirit of friendly competition, the WHFs also played host to a Pokémon livestage that provided the latest Poké-anime information and, in its interactive segments, taught the audience how to play the TCG.28Source is: https://pk-mn.com/n/whf-14-winter-pokemon/?amp=1 On said stage, each WHF venue featured a Pokémon XY exhibition match between Get☆TV co-host Abareru-kun and an accomplished professional shogi player. Sources have it that Abareru-kun went out of his way to exchange virtual Pokémon with fans, much like his predecessor Golgo Matsumoto – then co-host of Pokémon Sunday – had done with his Worlds’09 “Goruchans”.29 Source for the Abareru-kun exchanges is Famitsu: … Continue reading

There was more still. A Pokémon Popularity Poll was run in order to have the general public decide on the traditional feature film pre-order event Pokémon bonus.30A tradition that started with 2007’s “10th” Deoxys. See our Sinnoh series here. Visitors could cast their vote for either Manaphy, Jirachi, Darkrai or Victini on the spot, online or through CoroCoro Monthly. Darkrai won, and was subsequently given out ahead of Movie 17: Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction. Then, finally, the Pokémon booth beamed a WiFi distribution directly to Pokémon XY! …A distribution of what, you ask? Of an incredible four types of O-Powers, no less! Huh? O-Powers. Yeah. You know. XY’s completely unnecessary temporary boosts to catch rates, battle winnings, and such. I agree. Pretty underwhelming.

WHF Pokémon Activities

Clockwise, from top-left: (1) Abareru-kun exhibition match; (2) Battle Corner; (3) XY Mega adverts; (4) Wobbuffet prize plush; (5) Preorder voting card. Image credit: Sylphwatch

Now, I’m aware this is a boatload of information to take in. Much of it is derived from extremely comprehensive reports by media outlets GWI, Famitsu and InsideGames, who walked readers through WHF’s many available Pokémon-related activities step by step in glorious detail. So why do I bother to rehash it? Because, tellingly, none of GWI, Famitsu and InsideGames thought to mention Tretta or the Nuketta campaign. At all. The Tarakatomy booths where the Nuketta machines were presumably set up didn’t earn as much as a passing mention. In fact, even Tarakatomy itself neglected to showcase the Nukettas on its online WHF info page, drawing attention to the exhibition of a Pokémon Moncolle toy, but not the custom crossplay distribution apparatus it had crafted. Contrast that with Hitachi’s obvious pride in showing off their ingenious Nomose Safari tech! Puzzling.

Makuhari WHF Tretta Corner (top); Signed by Junichi (bottom). Image credit: Pikachuftt

The Nukettas didn’t fare much better in the blogging sphere, either. Wobbuffet indeed featured prominently in Sylphwatch’s WHF photo series… But did so as a winnable 80cm tall megaplush to celebrate Sonans’ addition to the Get☆TV cast, not as the subject of a Tretta-XY crossover campaign. Pokemorning casually observed that Tretta left a strong impression on them, but they, too, did not comment on the Nuketta machines, if they noticed them at all. Only the indomitable Pikachuftt, never to miss a beat, chronicled their collection of Nuketta Wobbuffet at Makuhari Messe. Amazingly, they also bumped into Junichi Masuda, who signed Pikachu’s 3DS LL Eevee Edition!

Okay. Then finally, the third leg to Nuketta Wobbuffet’s distribution: the PokéCenters (PCs). I’ll try to keep this brief. The PCs did things a little differently from the mega-event in-lifes. With an overall implementation period of about a month, Sonans was available nationwide between January 20 and February 16, 2014. But within that timeframe, the PokéCenters employed a paired rotational schedule informed roughly by geography and the concurrent WHF caravan’s movements around Japan – presumably because only a handful of Nuketta machines had been manufactured. Wobbuffet came first to PCs Nagoya and Sapporo, moved to PCs Yokohama and Tokyo, switched to PCs Touhoku and Fukuoka, and finally arrived at PCs Osaka and Tokyo Bay.31Exact date ranges were: Jan 20-26 (Sapporo, Nagoya), Jan 29-Feb 2 (Yokohama, Tokyo), Feb 5-9 (Touhoku, Fukuoka), Feb 12-16 (Osaka, Tokyo Bay). In a broader sense, what’s striking about this schedule is the month-plus delay between Nuketta’s showing at the TCG Festas and the campaign’s transition to the traditional bastions of Pokéhood, the PCs. Perhaps this was simply a matter of logistics. Or perhaps it was a deliberate move to tempt Pokéfans from both the Tretta and XY camps to come explore the TCG Festas and see what else new the Pokéverse had to offer. (Not that it worked!)32To add to this, Nuketta’s Battle Festa and WHF appearances were redundant in principle, since these mega-events took place in all the same cities that also sported PokéCenters. And to the … Continue reading

Nuketta Poster

PokéCenter Nuketta distribution poster. Image credit: asami

Nuketta availability was also limited in a quantitative, not just temporal, sense. PokéCenters uniformly imposed a cap of 800 total Wobbuffet claims/day, with the exception of PC Osaka which allowed a mere 450 redeems/day on weekdays, PC Fukuoka (a generous 1000/day) and PC Touhoku, which specified no upper limit. The way it worked was that at all Centers, participating customers were – rather clinically – presented a first come, first serve numbered ticket between 9:00-9:45AM, before the store’s opening hours. Guests then had to mill about and simply wait for their turn to use a Nuketta machine. Among those who did was blogger “pokelove066”, who on Sunday February 2 whiled away the time at PC Tokyo with a friend by browsing store merchandise and idly playing its Tretta machines. Two things are of note here. First, these redeem caps intuitively look like a crude crowd control measure. Which would be altogether unsurprising, in light of past experience! In actuality, however, it appears that the maximums were dictated by the limited quantity of Nuketta machines rather than PC visitor capacity. Second, considering each Center’s distribution bloc included two or even three weekdays, this walk-in clinic “await your turn patiently”-approach was not exactly friendly to your average office worker, elementary schooler, or even college student, all of whom would have been tied up at work or in class.

What I’m getting at here: the combination of upper limits to availability – even on weekends – and considerable inconvenience of pickup most certainly put downwards pressure on the numbers of Nuketta Wobbuffet generated. The resulting quick math is a touch depressing. Even if we assume all PokéCenter redeem slots were filled to capacity, which is a highly questionable proposition, PC Nuketta Wobbuffet come in at less than 40.000 total nationwide.33PC Touhoku obviously is a wild card in the math, but I think it unlikely that they somehow served a great deal more Nuketta customers than the other Centers. Allowing for an extremely generous 5.000 redeems between Battle Festas and WHF – the actual number was likely far lower, possibly negligible – that results in an overall figure of some 45.000 Wobbuffet, an unspectacular sum of under 50.000. Which may, at first glance, not sound so bad, but contrasted against the crossplay ambitions of the Nuketta campaign and the sheer technical investment in preparing it, feels like a very paltry yield indeed.

Because to (re)state the glaringly obvious: Nuketta Wobbuffet flew under the radar to make for the lowest of low-key distributions. Any Tretta-XY cross-fertilisation hopes that TPC and Tarakatomy may have harboured were dead in the water after the TCG Festas. All signs indicate that Wobbuffet did not generate a sudden surge of interest in Tretta among XY fans. Equally, if sentiments on 2channel were at all representative of the national mood – which, in this case, I believe they were – then the transferrable Wobbo also did not invite much discussion among Tretta enthusiasts anywhere. In fact, the usual suspects of hardcore Pokémon enthusiasts aside, nobody at all seemed to have cared about Tretta Sonans. I therefore think that the figure of 45.000 total Nuketta Wobbuffet distributed is an overly sanguine estimation, and that assuming a floor half that amount, in the vicinity of 25.000-30.000 Wobbuffet, is a more realistic assessment.

XY Wobbuffet. Note the lone move. Image credit: Webry

What remains is to search for causes. In a post-mortem, it inmediately stands out just how dull XY Sonans was, even for a Wobbuffet. In the interests of unconstrained participation, TPC and Tarakatomy logically chose a common Tretta piece as the target of their cross-product transformation campaign. Wobbuffet, in its capacity of a fairly powerful if standard-rarity Fes 3 puck, fit this bill perfectly. But for whatever reason, Nuketta Wobbuffet’s designers opted to have the Pokémon religiously reflection the qualities of the original Tretta puck. Like Tretta Wobbuffet inside the arcade cabinet, Nuketta Wobbuffet inside XY knew Counter as its sole move. No Mirror Coat. No Destiny Bond. No Charm, Encore, or even the goofy Splash. It goes without saying that three empty moveslots do not make for a great first impression, but more importantly, it meant there was nothing exciting about the Pokémon itself for TPC to latch onto and promote. (Compare this to “10th Deoxys“, for example.) It’s as if all creativity had been exhausted devising the distribution model and none was left to craft an appealing virtual Pokémon.

To really drive public interest in the distribution, in my opinion, the answer would have been to choose an unremarkable puck in Tretta but translate it to something extraordinary in XY. By slapping a unique TM on it, for instance. Or better yet: by having it turn shiny on puck-to-XY transfer, the consequence of a supposed kink in the machine. Imagine the interest that would have generated for subsequent crossover campaigns. (Which never came, by the way.) The irony is that a ready hook was available for Sonans: Wobbuffet had just made a welcome return to active Team Rocket duty in the XY Kalos anime after Jessie had sidelined it in Unova. Heck, in recognition of this, Italy got an exclusive Jessie Wobbuffet event Pokémon distribution in Summer 2014! But here, no such connection was made. It’s quite telling that after obtaining their Nuketta Wobbuffet at PC Fukuoka, blogger “clipclop” bluntly expressed they felt this Sonans was “nothing special”. And clipclop was absolutely right. Creative obtain method notwithstanding, Wobbuffet was simply not exciting enough to galvanise either the breadth of the XY or Tretta fanbases and compel them to action. 34For fullness of information, Nuketta Wobbuffet’s TID was 12063 (for December 6, 2013), its OT was「ヌケッタ 」(Nuketta), it came in a crimson Cherish Ball, and had an Event Ribbon.

Because for non-Tretta players, acquiring a Wobbuffet puck was a non-trivial hurdle that required incentive to overcome. Tretta being a chance-based game, obtaining one straight from an arcade cabinet fundamentally implied throwing a stack of ¥100 coins at it. Someone on 2channel – somewhat inanely – advised a Wobbuffet-seeker exactly this. Moreover, newcomers to Tretta found Wobbuffet “too hard to beat and [it] can’t be caught”.35”ポケモントレッタpart18″, Poster #150: 「ソーナンス欲しさにトレッタ始めたんだけどこれっていつまでなの? … Continue reading Other Tretta veterans on 2ch, with more sympathy for the problem, gave the more sensible recommendation to simply buy the loose Tretta piece online if “XY Wobbuffet is all you want”.36「XYにソーナンスが欲しいだけならネットで買った方が早いよ」 The aforementioned clipclop’s experience was illustrative. Opting for the scavenger hunt solution, they thought the tracking down of a Wobbuffet puck – which they successfully dug out of a ¥30/piece used Tretta bargain bin at a card shop – quite memorable and enjoyable. However, they mused: “It will be a little troublesome if the Nuketta distribution continues in the future”. The thinness of the social media papertrail surrounding Nuketta suggests that not many went through this degree of trouble. And as far as anecdotal reports of participation at PokéCenters go, I could find just a few. One “kyoukinosata”, who partook at PC Touhoku, was asked to please keep the stripped Wobbuffet shell as a memento.37「記念にとっておいて下さいね!」 And on Twitter, where @pokemon_cojp had put out word of the campaign in January to practically nill response, much sleuthing revealed an ancient tweet by @rabienrose310 as the only Nuketta campaign mention left standing on the platform, provided there were any more to begin with.38In talking about their stripped Wobbuffet Nuketta obtained at PC Sapporo, they praised the campaign’s attention to detail (芸が細かい). See: … Continue reading

Despite all this, it’s tempting to attribute some of the Wobbuffet campaign’s disappointing performance to more meta-level factors located outside the purview of TPC and Tarakatomy’s immediate efforts. The timing of it, for instance. Wobbuffet was only XY’s third event distribution – and second in-life, after Tokyo Bay Inkay [LINK] – and it had to compete with CoroCoro Garchomp for attention and publicity. With XY released but weeks before the initial announcement, it’s perhaps only fair to conclude that fans weren’t attuned to event distributions yet. Moreover, what one might call the zeitgeist did not necessarily work in Nuketta Wobbuffet’s favour. Where Generation Sinnoh quickly created its own tailwinds, XY spent a bit more time fighting the headwinds still blowing from Unova. XY marked beginning of the Pokémon franchise’s clawing its way back to the limelight after the lean years of Black & White 2 which, while the definition of GameFreak passion projects (that have aged incredibly well), were somehow commercial disappointments. In late 2013, this process had only just begun, and one might argue that Wobbuffet would’ve fared better deeper into Generation Kalos, as spiritual successor Tretta Rotom did.

Overall, then, we can conclude that as an experiment on a technical level, Nuketta Wobbuffet passed with flying colours. As a commercial cross-product campaign aimed at cross-pollination between stovepiped elements of XY and Tretta fanbases, it failed abjectly. Even today, one often hears the sentiment: “If only could transfer out Pokémon from spinoff games” – Café Mix Celebi being a recent case in point. To the extent that the Tretta and XY fanbases indeed loved the idea inter-game transferability, they simply found it very difficult to get enthusiastic about a plain-as-white-Ts Wobbuffet. A poster on 2channel echoed that widely held sentiment, when on December 17, 2013, they wrote: “I wish I could move Kyurem to the game with Nuketta! I want something better than just Wobbuffet.”39’ポケモントレッタpart16”, Poster280: 「キュレムとかがヌケッタでゲームに移動出来たらよかったのにな~! … Continue reading What could have been a real juicy carrot, then, ended up being somewhat of a tasteless stalk of celery.40Unsatisfied, some simply wanted more: “I’m not happy to receive the Wobbuffet. I wanted to feel that you can take all the Pokemon caught in Tretta to the (XY) game, except for … Continue reading

The lukewarm reception of Nuketta Sonans appears to have convinced Poké-bosses that any advanced cross-fertilisation between Tretta and XY players was a mission impossible, or at least not a commercially viable endeavour to attempt, and if fan expectations were raised that more such puck-to-game transfers might occur via the Nuketta machine in the future, these went unfulfilled. Came March 2014, the Nuketta devices were forever shelved and forgotten, never to make a return. That said: lessons drawn from Nuketta, a spiritual successor did find its way into the world – one which was to employ a much more direct, less involved mode of communication between Tretta arcades and players’ XY games. Intrigued? Read about this Tretta Rotom here [LINK]!

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Well, and its comic relief broadcaster role on Pokémon Sunday during the show’s Hoenn era. But who remembers that?
2 It did, however, make its way over to Hong Kong and Taiwan – and reportedly also to Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines – nearish the end of the arcade game’s lifecycle.
3 If contemporary forum discussions are anything to go by, it’s probably for the better that Tretta didn’t cross the Pacific. A Project Pokémon poster going by the handle “Guested” made no bones about their overt dislike for Tretta, describing the game as “awful”, before elucidating: “It’s a children’s version of Battrio. It is basically: press the button as fast as you can! and Stop the Roulette!” Another PP user agreed, writing: “Yeah, I hate this game. The button smashing is so noisy, too.”
4 Not shying hyperbole, GamesRadar dubbed Tretta “the best moneymaking idea since Pokémon”. See here.
5 A solid number of Tretta blogs, it must be said, have unfortunately vanished unarchived upon Yahoo Blogs’ suspension of service in December 2019. We can find hints of such regularly referenced weblogs on 2channel, which included sites by fukkan1228 and tomotoretta.
6 As one Project Pokémon user wrote: “I also saw business men (sic) playing Tretta though. It’s weird.”
7 「もちろん子供のゲームなんですけどもね・・・おっさんハマってしまいました(笑) (…) 今の最新はフェス1弾なんですけども、すでにレジェンドのミューツーはしっかり倒してゲットしたんですが、リザードンのマスターとゲノセクトのマスターには未だ出会わず終い。(…) この2枚取ればコンプリートなんですがねえ・・・(…) とっととコンプリートしてやめたいなあ(笑)」
8 Not that the January 15 @pokemon_cojp tweet drew much attention, with just 14 total likes (as of April 2021).
9 See this 2channel thread: https://toro.5ch.net/test/read.cgi/arc/1384221002/4-103?v=pc
10 なぞのマシン「ポケモンヌケッタ」
11 To support this idea, the original November 15 post to pokemontretta.com explained how the Nuketta machine was still under development: “謎のマシン「ポケモンヌケッタ」は現在開発中のため、画像はイメージイラストとなります。実物はイメージイラストと異なる場合がございますので、ご了承ください。”
12 Pokémon Get☆TV was the successor show to Sinnoh’s Pokémon Sunday and Unova’s Pokémon Smash. Rebranded for Generation Kalos, the lovely Shoko Nakagawa was still the show’s chief presenter-host, which retained its eclectic child-friendly mix of anime reruns, Pokémon news, community outreach and general comedy.
13 For example, in the wake of Get☆TV’s broadcast, blogger “pokeaogtytnsy” wrote: “On December 1st, “Pokemon Get TV” (announced) the … Wobbuffet Campaign. I hadn’t noticed before that this campaign was released…”
14 Which, incidentally, rendered the puck useless for future games of Tretta.
15 『ポケットモンスター X・Y』に連れて行こう!ソーナンスが抜け出しソーナンス!キャンペーン
16  「ポケモンカードゲーム バトルフェスタ」
17 次世代ワールドホビーフェア’14Winter
18 For an introduction to Japan’s annual World Hobby Fair(s), see also this article on Hobby Fair Manaphy.
19 Up until 2012, these TCG events were called “Battle Carnival” (バトルカーニバル); the change in nomenclature seemed to deliberately hearken back to the Sinnoh glory days. An archival snapshots of the official event page is here: https://web.archive.org/web/20140815055405/http://www.pokemon-card.com/event/card-event/battle_festa
20 Special Champion’s Pokémon like Lance’s Dragonite, Steven’s Metagross, Cynthia’s Spiritomb and Alder’s Volcarona had been given out for Pokémon Black & White 2 just months prior, in August 2013, at Tokyo’s rather spectacular Pokémon Game Show.
21 Writing: “特別なソーナンスじゃないなら抜け殻トレッタのみオクで狙うのが、時間と交通費の無駄がなくて得策かなぁ…?”
22 「ソーナンスマニアの自分」
23 Webry’s fantastic account of Tokyo’s TCG Festa is found here: https://34102238.at.webry.info/201312/article_21.html
24 Additional qualifying rounds took place in Sapporo and Sendai, plus a last chance tournament the day before the finals, for a total of seven venues. In a twist on the usual format, VGC competitors had to select a Dragon type on their doubles team at all times.
25 For more details of this Ryoh battle event, see here.
26 Two consecutive PvP wins earned one an XY-themed storage folder.
27 Perhaps there were simply more interesting things to do at WHF, such as checking out the playable demo of MarioKart 8, then slated for imminent release on WiiU (e.g. here, here and here).
28 Source is: https://pk-mn.com/n/whf-14-winter-pokemon/?amp=1
29  Source for the Abareru-kun exchanges is Famitsu: 「ほかにも、あばれる君とポケモン交換ができたり、中村6段と将棋を打てたりと、貴重なイベントが盛りだくさんだった。」See: https://s.famitsu.com/news/201401/26047140.html
30 A tradition that started with 2007’s “10th” Deoxys. See our Sinnoh series here.
31 Exact date ranges were: Jan 20-26 (Sapporo, Nagoya), Jan 29-Feb 2 (Yokohama, Tokyo), Feb 5-9 (Touhoku, Fukuoka), Feb 12-16 (Osaka, Tokyo Bay).
32 To add to this, Nuketta’s Battle Festa and WHF appearances were redundant in principle, since these mega-events took place in all the same cities that also sported PokéCenters. And to the extent that Tretta visitor stuffing was truly an objective, Tarakatomy soon invented modified “Tretta Safari” cabinets that dispensed limited-time special Tretta pieces, and were deployed only at expos, Festas and real-life events. See also here.
33 PC Touhoku obviously is a wild card in the math, but I think it unlikely that they somehow served a great deal more Nuketta customers than the other Centers.
34 For fullness of information, Nuketta Wobbuffet’s TID was 12063 (for December 6, 2013), its OT was「ヌケッタ 」(Nuketta), it came in a crimson Cherish Ball, and had an Event Ribbon.
35 ”ポケモントレッタpart18″, Poster #150: 「ソーナンス欲しさにトレッタ始めたんだけどこれっていつまでなの? ソーナンス堅すぎて倒せないし捕まえれないしやっぱレポートいるのかな?」, at: https://toro.5ch.net/test/read.cgi/arc/1390630364/?v=pc
36 「XYにソーナンスが欲しいだけならネットで買った方が早いよ」
37 「記念にとっておいて下さいね!」
38 In talking about their stripped Wobbuffet Nuketta obtained at PC Sapporo, they praised the campaign’s attention to detail (芸が細かい). See: https://twitter.com/rabienrose310/status/427395351713038336
39 ’ポケモントレッタpart16”, Poster280: 「キュレムとかがヌケッタでゲームに移動出来たらよかったのにな~! ソーナンスだけじゃなくてもっとなんかいいのが欲しい」, at: https://toro.5ch.net/test/read.cgi/arc/1386922601/?v=pc
40 Unsatisfied, some simply wanted more: “I’m not happy to receive the Wobbuffet. I wanted to feel that you can take all the Pokemon caught in Tretta to the (XY) game, except for Legends…” See: “ポケモントレッタpart12”, Poster #12, November 12, 2013, at: https://toro.5ch.net/test/read.cgi/arc/1384221002/4-103?v=pc.