January 21, 2020

PCNY Campaign Overview (Gen 3)

So you want to know more about the Center’s various PCNY Pokémon? Well! There’s good news, and there’s bad news. I’ll give you the good news first: our documentation of Generation II PCNY Pokémon – or GCEA Station Pokemon as they were then known – is fantastic. I mean really good. Enthusiastic fans penned FAQs with an impressive chronology of campaigns run by the Center. And the Center itself, too, published a simple yet detailed event schedule to the Pokemon.com website. Regularly updated, it contained everything a fan wanted to know about recent and upcoming GCEA Pokémon: what species were available, their distribution window, any special move(s), and whether they could be shiny. The system worked like a charm. (Read about it here!)

…Not so for Gen 3. This is the bad news. The old GCEA event webpage was dustbinned, with nothing to take its place. Entire PCNY campaigns went by unpublicised and undocumented throughout 2003 and 2004 as only sporadic website announcements indicated the availablity of new Pokémon. Players didn’t know what they could get, and when they could get it. This marked a radical departure from Gen II, and a baffling one at that. It begs the question: why?

Image credit: nyzakki02 Archived at: https://www.oocities.org/soho/coffeehouse/2491/nyzakki/0203/nyzakki02.htm

In searching for an answer, let me counter that question with another question: how much would it cost to rent that much floor space in the heart of New York’s Rockefeller Center? A princely sum, surely!1 This was a-okay when Pokémon dominated the turn-of-the-century zeitgeist. The Center’s grand opening came at the zenith of the Poké-craze in 2001, when a giant Pikachu balloon was paraded down the streets of Manhattan on Thanksgiving Day and George W. Bush famously said “Ich bin ein Pokémon-Trainer”. (Okay, that last one didn’t happen – or did it?) But as an overseas facility dedicated solely to Pokémon, the store’s fortunes inevitably waxed and waned with the popularity of the Pokémon franchise at large. By 2003, the landscape had changed. An increasing number of voices could be heard saying that Pokémon, after all, had just been a fad. A megalomanic one, fuelled by a global diffusion of popular culture travelling along the new information superhighways (that’s the internet to you and me), but a fad nonetheless. Yu-Gi-Oh was on the rise, Medabots and Beyblade the confident new kids on the block.2 Merchandise sales slowed markedly,3 and Ruby and Sapphire sales numbers disappointed, trailing Gold & Silver’s by millions. Leaner times seemed to lie ahead, and increasingly the PC New York looked like an expensive facility struggling to justify its existence.

So when the renovated PCNY machines returned to the store in August 2003 after an eight-month absence for upgrades, they came packaged with a new philosophy: PCNY event Pokémon campaigns would be used to actually, well, campaign. They would be advertised big, headlining the Pokemon.com news section in a bid to get people through the door (and buy merchandise!) Except… It didn’t work. The grand back-to-school promotion in late August created considerable buzz, but was followed by an underwhelming public response to Dragon Week (September) and Monster Mosh (October). The advertised Pokémon themselves just were not special enough to incentivise players to travel in, for unlike many Gen II GCEA, they weren’t mythicals, lacked exciting special moves and could never be shiny. Even repeated enticements reminding players that they could download as many Pokémon as they liked didn’t have the desired effect. Very quickly, the website stopped advertising new PCNY Pokémon for download as major events, and reverted to a format of low-key, infrequent new distributions plus regular reruns.

From a documentation perspective, this was truly the worst of all worlds. Early campaigns had been abortive hypes low on specifics, casually namedropping the available Pokémon but not much else. Then until the end of PCNY’s lifetime, the Center didn’t document the majority of its new distributions at all, neither as part of major campaigns nor through a plaintext list tucked away in some corner of the Pokemon.com website. This want of contemporary official sources makes chronicling the history of Gen III PCNY event distributions a difficult task. It certainly doesn’t help that the Center closed in March 2005 with barely two months’ warning, breaking up the community surrounding it and making for a lack of continuity as the Pokémon-related equipment, ornaments and paraphernalia were sent back to Japanese HQ or simply thrown out.4 Nor does it help that the Center maintained a strict no-photography policy throughout its lifetime, or that this lifetime pre-dated the personal website and blogging boom.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that our knowledge about the ins and outs of Generation III PCNY Pokémon is patchy. We’re fairly confident that we know of most campaigns, and have a good sense of what was in them. Where our understanding comes up short, however, is in compiling something resembling a full chronology. Anecdotal evidence suggests that older distributions were repeated throughout late 2003 and well into 2004. But even taking reruns into account, the time period from November 2003 to April 2004 is conspicuously bereft of special distributions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. These holidays were all observed through commemorative Pokémon of some kind during Gen II. But if any dedicated events were designed to mark these holidays in 2003-04, well… Nobody has ever heard of them.

This brings up a larger point. Since the days of Generation II, PCNY campaigns had been programmed over at Japan’s GameFreak headquarters and simply mailed in. While there was no shortage of fresh events during Gen II, far fewer unique distributions were designed for these latest Gen III games. Why this was so we can only speculate. Anecdotal reports suggest friction between Japanese headquarters and the PCNY staff tasked with drawing up and submitting for approval events that would appeal to New Yorkers – suggestions that were regularly rejected. The Pokémon Company’s gradual loss of interest in the New York PC no doubt fed into it (as evident from the Center’s ultimate closure in March 2005), as did reduced public interest in the Pokémon franchise towards the start of Generation III. Sadly the Center’s former staffers, who could shed light on this issue and potentially provide a wealth of information, have hitherto not publicly discussed their old jobs. And thus many question marks remain.

Evolution Stone Promotion
August 30 to September 4, 2003

Pikachu [LV.50] @Thunderstone
> Thunderbolt / Agility / Thunder / Light Screen
Staryu [LV.50] @Water Stone
> Minimize / Light Screen / Cosmic Power / Hydro Pump
Gloom [LV.50] @Leaf Stone
> Sleep Powder / Acid / Moonlight / Petal Dance
Gloom [LV.50] @Sun Stone
> Sleep Powder / Acid / Moonlight / Petal Dance

What better way to celebrate the return of the Gotta Catch ‘Em All machines than by distributing several Kanto classics, including Pikachu! But this is no ordinary Pikachu, it… Oh, hang on. It is an ordinary Pikachu. Okay. And Gloom and Staryu are too? Alright. Advertised as ready for the Battle Tower, Pikachu, Staryu and Gloom nonetheless came as prevolutions holding elemental evolution stones, not as fully evolved Pokémon with Leftovers, a Lum Berry, or some other item with a competitive use. Even a Light Ball on Pikachu would’ve worked better here. It’s also slightly odd how both variants of Gloom were given exactly the same moveset, considering how one was to become Vileplume (Leaf Stone) and the other Bellossom (Sun Stone), which fill different competitive niches. Plus you’d still have to slap a variety of TMs on either to make it viable. (And remember, TMs were single-use in Gen III).

While conceived as a 3-day event, distribution logs retrieved from the original PCNY hardware tell us it ran twice back-to-back for a total of 6 consecutive days. But intriguingly, we’ve identified a total of four unique machine C sequences, which suggests that Pikachu, Gloom and Staryu were redistributed somewhere down the line, possibly in another bloc of 2×3 days. In fact, Pikachu’s top TID of 01068 (one of DanTrain’s) is rather high for a 3-day event, making it a prime candidate for an undocumented festival season rerun.

Dragon Week
September 29 to October 3, 2003

Seadra [LV.45] @Dragon Scale
> Dragon Rage / Hydro Pump / Twister / Ice Beam OR Leer
Altaria [LV.45] @Dragon Fang
> Aerial Ace OR Take Down / Dragonbreath / Dragon Dance / Flamethrower OR Ice Beam
Flygon [LV.45] @Dragon Fang
> Sand Tomb / Crunch / Dragonbreath / Flamethrower
Salamence [LV.50] @Dragon Fang
> Protect / Dragonbreath / Thrash / Fly

Here be dragons! Altaria, Flygon, Seadra and Salamence, to be exact. (Seadra but not Charizard, what were they thinking?!) Like the Evolution Stone promotion before it, these Pokémon too were expressly presented as battle-ready. But this time, the website didn’t care to specify (all of) the Pokémon’s held items let alone movesets, and it’s here that we’re dealing with imperfect information.

We don’t have original memory card campaign data or distribution logs for this event. Instead, our observations are based off the 13 Salamence, 12 Altaria, 9 Flygon, and 8 Seadra from Dragon Week in the collections of GoldUrsaring and DanTrain.5 It’s a decent sample size, but the trouble is that dragons are powerful and great for use in playthroughs. Some surviving Dragon Week Pokémon are visibly touched, having gained EXP. PCNYd 00369 Altaria and PCNYc 00798 Salamence are examples of this. More consequential than a bit of EXP gain is the implication that DanTrain’s army of dragons wasn’t simply obtained and put away, but actively used for gameplay. (The humanity!) Some definitely had their held items removed or reshuffled. And any number of these Pokémon may have had their movesets altered through TMs or a move tutor – all of it without us knowing it, or being able to directly find out. What’s clear is that the Seadra(s) definitely held a Dragon Scale – the archived Pokémon website alone reveals as much. As for the other three dragons, all of their variants appear to have been distributed holding a Dragon Fang.

Variants? Yes. This is the second problem. Seadra and Altaria were distributed with two possible movesets, Leer vs. Ice Beam for Seadra and a double changeup for Altaria: Aerial Ace & Flamethrower vs. Take Down & Ice Beam. We have sufficient numbers of each to assert this with confidence. Intuitively, one would assume Flygon and Salamence also had two variants. And while we’ve indeed seen Flygon with Screech and Salamence with Scary Face, none of these sequence with any Altaria, Seadra, or other Flygon / Salamence from Dragon Week. Six unique Pokémon or eight unique Pokémon in this distribution – it’s anyone’s guess.

As if this wasn’t enough, there’s a third issue: that of machine B. There is one Scary Face Salamence not from Spring Fling that sequences with a Screech Flygon, and that’s 00048b going with 00036b Flygon. PCNYb 00001 Seadra also chains. Is this a repeat distribution on a different machine from before? Is it a separate “Dragons Remastered” distribution altogether? We simply don’t know.

Ghost Week
October 18 to 24, 2003

Duskull [LV.25]
> Disable / Foresight / Astonish / Confuse Ray
Shuppet [LV.25]
> Screech / Night Shade / Curse / Spite
Cacturne [LV.50]
> Faint Attack / Spikes / Needle Arm / Cotton Spore
Shedinja [LV.50]
> Spite / Shadow Ball / Confuse Ray / Grudge

Spooky season arrived (and concluded) early in 2003. And had a second coming sometime later. And a third.

That we know this is a minor miracle. For some 15 years, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a legitimate Duskull, Shuppet or Shedinja in the Pokémon trading community. Several people had convincing-looking Cacturnes, but couldn’t decide between them if it was meant to be LV. 45, or LV.50. Yeah. The Duskull and Shuppet going around were varying levels too, ranging from LV.25 to LV.50. The underlying problem, of course, was a lack of documentation. For whatever reason, the Pokémon Center never published details of this particular distribution (or even announced that it was taking place!), and so GoldUrsaring’s personal recollections were our most authoritative source on the event’s very existence even though he didn’t own any of these Pokémon himself. (Or if he did, he never traded them.)

DanTrain’s 2017 decision to list Ghost Week Pokémon for sale was a watershed moment. Once established as indisputably, incontrovertibly authentic, his ‘Mons gave us correct movesets and met levels for all four “ghosts” (and helped to identify all previously circulating copies as hacks). The 2019 PCNY hardware campaign data affirmed what Dan’s Pokémon showed, and revealed a programmed distribution window of October 18-24, 2003.

So we have four spooky ghosts with scary moves like Spite, Curse, and Night Shade, and their distribution ended… One week before Halloween, exactly the time when America would begin gearing up to trick-or-treat, light bonfires, and generally commemorate All Hallows’ Eve. Heck, the Center’s annual “Halloween Bash” was scheduled for Saturday the 25th. The spooky Pokémon Shuppet and Duskull even featured on its flyer! But from the 25th onwards, Monster Mosh was programmed, and while that sounds as though it may have included Dusclops, Misdreavus, Sableye or anything else ghastly, it in fact revolved around battle-ready Wailord and Exploud, and had absolutely zilch to do with Halloween. My sense is that Japan programmed these two distributions the wrong way around. We and our silly Western holidays! How would they know?!

Of course, PCNY staff may have noticed this and reversed the actual distribution timings by strategically changing hardware clocks. They could also have allowed Ghost Week to run long and include the Bash weekend, or at least the 25th. Such are the limitations of sequencing that we cannot quite tell – only kids who attended the Bash on the 25th may remember, or PCNY staff overseeing the event. Finally, going by our three unique B and C sequences, it seems likely these ghosts were redistributed on two occasions, though exactly when we cannot say.

Monster Mosh
October 25 to 31, 2003

Aggron [LV.50]
> Taunt / Iron Tail / Protect / Metal Claw
Aggron [LV.100]
> Iron Tail / Dragon Claw / Ice Beam / Double-Edge
Exploud [LV.50]
> Stomp / Hyper Voice / Shadow Ball / Roar
Exploud [LV.100]
> Roar / Shadow Ball / Brick Break / Hyper Voice
Crawdaunt [LV.50]
> Dig / Bubblebeam / Crabhammer / Swords Dance
Crawdaunt [LV.100]
> Toxic / Crabhammer / Hail / Guillotine
Wailord [LV.50]
> Water Pulse / Blizzard / Rest / Water Spout
Wailord [LV.100]
> Blizzard / Water Spout / Earthquake / Hydro Pump

Monster Mosh! Now doesn’t that sound like something right out of a high-octane commercial for an energy drink? Featuring… Aggron, Crawdaunt, Exploud and Wailord! Roaaarggh!

The Center announced this distribution twice, first on October 10th and again on the 25th. They really wanted the campaign to be a success. But even looking at it today, the distribution as a whole is kind of… Bland. Once again, the four were pitched as levelled-up and ready for use in the Battle Tower – but who would ever want to take on a Pokémon game’s ultimate challenge with an Exploud, Crawdaunt or Wailord? They lack held items and general appeal too. I don’t know where the four rank in the latest Pokémon popularity polls, but I’d wager none ever cracked the top-100.6

In any case, our understanding of this distribution is quite good. We don’t have memory card data for it, but thanks to uniformly pristine specimens from DanTrain and GoldUrsaring, we don’t need it. The biggest Mosh-question is by now a familiar one: how many repeats, and when? Sequences aplenty but exactly how Monster Mosh, Ghost Week, Dragon Week and Evolution Stone Week combine to fill the ~20-week space from November ’03 to April ’04 is still a mystery.

Christmas Campaign
December 2003 (?)

But CC, didn’t you say there wasn’t a Christmas Campaign in 2003? You’d be correct. Indications are, however, that one was planned. Allegedly a distribution revolving around the move “Present” was pitched by PCNY staff, and nayed by corporate Japan because they feared it was too powerful. No replacement distribution was designed. Christmas is not an official public holiday in Japan, and as strangers to the Germanic traditions underpinning it, they may have failed to appreciate the importance of Christmas in Western culture.

So picture this. It’s December 2003. New York is bursting at the seams, jam-packed with tourists who travelled in from faraway places to take in the Big Apple’s festive cityscape. PC New York’s visitor count is as high as it’ll be all year, as throngs of people come to see the Rockefeller Center’s famous Christmas tree, and elect to make a sidestop at the PokeCenter just around the corner. The PokeCenter New York needs to turn a profit, right? Now would be the time to sell endless merchandise to out-of-towners itching to spend! And to reward your faithful fanbase for stopping by, the entire PokeCenter’s in tip-top shape, except the GCEA machines, which are running… Nothing at all! They’re switched off, because no new campaign could be prepared in time. Surely it can’t have happened this way. It’s a beyond outrageous scenario.

So as PCNY staff, what do you do? Well, you’d probably put some older distributions on repeat. You might even take it upon yourself to modify their campaign data, which we know staff was able to, and perhaps distribute an ensemble cast of crowd favourites for the holiday season. The popular dragons on machine B, Pikachu on machine C, and some roaring beasts on machine D. Accurate? I don’t know. Future information will tell. Hopefully.

Spring Fling
April 19 to 25, 2004

Gardevoir [LV.35] @Ganlon Berry OR Salac Berry
> Teleport / Calm Mind / Psychic / Imprison
Tropius [LV.30] @Petaya Berry
> Razor Leaf / Stomp / Sweet Scent / Whirlwind
Salamence [LV.50]
> Protect / Dragonbreath / Scary Face / Fly

Say Spring Fling, say Inkydog. I couldn’t possibly talk about this distribution without paying homage to the famous Pokémon Box save that sat on GameFAQs since 2005, jammed full of PCNY Gardevoir and Tropius that seemed legitimate, but that nobody could successfully attribute to any known event. How things have changed! Unexpected linkages to some Salamence were the first hint at something bigger. The resurfacing of an old, preserved PokeCenter flyer featuring Tropius gave the event a name: Spring Fling. And the recovery of partial logs and campaign data provided a distribution window of April 19-25, rounding out our much-improved insight.

More broadly, the Spring Fling campaign was the GCEA stations’ return to form after a lengthy period of reruns or even dormancy. The official Pokemon website didn’t care to publicise it, which is unfortunate, because of all Gen III distributions to date this was easily the most impressive one. Gardevoir had a great moveset and came with two variants of rare berry. The inclusion of Tropius was unique – it hadn’t been given away before, and hasn’t been (in the West) since.7 Crowd-pleaser Salamence was there at a 5-25% chance. (We’re unsure of the precise odds and whether it carried a berry.)

Inkydog certainly loved this event: his 27 (!) Gardevoir and 19 Tropius come as sequential PCNYd TIDs from 00084 to 00190, and suggest he spent about a straight hour farming them. I’d state that Inky just badly wanted this many Gardevoir, but I think it more likely he was enamoured by the (much) rare(r) Salamence and simply shoved the undesirables into permanent storage once Box came out in July 2004. And of those Salamence… Not a trace!

Sheep & Wolf
May 15 to 22, 2004

Mareep [LV.5]
> Tackle / Growl
Houndour [LV.5]
> Leer / Ember

This is my personal choice for most peculiar-yet-faithful Gen III distribution. Peculiar, because its template differed markedly from the other Gen III distributions. Most campaigns had four Pokémon, this had only two. Other campaigns featured fully-evolved or “battle-ready” Pokémon, this one had two plain LV.5’s. Faithful, because Houndour and Mareep are unobtainable in all of Ruby, Sapphire, FireRed and LeafGreen, and so for once the Gotta Catch ‘Em All-stations actually gave out Pokémon designed to help you catch them all.

Up until the rediscovery of campaign data in 2019 and DanTrain’s subsequent sale of two PCNY Mareep, this distribution was considered a myth. One “darksteel88” listed a PCNYd Ampharos and PCNYc Houndoom among his collection as early as September 2007, but evidently this disclosure was met with a great deal of ridicule, for he felt obliged to affix the digital note “fake but w/e” to them.8 I’d love to confirm the authenticity of these and put them on record as the earliest known example of this under-the-radar distribution, but alas: convinced they were hacks, darksteel88 permanently deleted both.

Pokémon Box
July 10-16, 2004

Flygon [LV.45] @?
> Sand Tomb / Crunch / Dragonbreath / Screech
Seviper [LV.30] @Apricot Berry
> Poison Tail / Screech / Glare / Crunch
Absol (Wish) [LV.35] @Ganlon Berry
> Razor Wind / Bite / Swords Dance / Wish
Absol (Spite) [LV.35] @Salac Berry
> Razor Wind / Bite / Swords Dance / Spite

Ooh boy. The Box Promo. Okay. Here’s what you need to know first: Pokémon Box: Ruby & Sapphire was a Pokémon mass-storage solution disguised as a GameCube game. It released in Japan in May 2003, and when it was finally made available in North America in Summer ’04, it became a $60 PokeCenter New York exclusive. You could get it there, and only there. Both The Pokémon Company and PCNY made a big deal out of it.

So on July 2 2004, the Pokemon official website announced a 5-hour “special unveiling” of Pokémon Box, to take place at the New York PokeCenter on July 10, from 12-5PM. A special demo would be available to fans, and early purchasers received freebies. There was a GCEA component, too: unspecified “special Pokémon” would be available for download, presumably by way of extra enticement for players to purchase Box.

For years it was assumed that the event Pokémon were available only for duration of the Box launch, that is, five total hours on July 10, 2004. Yet sequencing tells us with absolute certainty that GCEA machines featured the Box distribution thoughout the promotional weekend. Sequencing also points to a seemingly non-routine PCNY machine reset on Monday morning, July 12, after which the promotional Pokémon remained live for the rest of the week. Anecdotal evidence suggested distribution overshoot as early as 2009, and sequencing now bears it out. Neat, huh? So much for official sources.

The distribution itself has a Gen III all-stars feel to it. PCNY distributions were usually designed around some kind of theme, be it Kanto classics, dragons, or fossils. But for this one, well… You tell me what the theme is! Gen III snakes and drakes? Or perhaps the promotional Pokémon were simply taken from the Japanese cover’s artwork, which featured both Flygon and Absol. (It also had Salamence and Blaziken, neither of which were in this distro.)9 In any case I’m surprised to see Seviper without Zangoose. And Absol with Wish was clearly a sign of things to come. Wish Absol was reportedly the rarer variant, though our data is equivocal (11 Spite, 7 Wish, and 1 unknown Absol).

We don’t have campaign data for the Box promotion, so questions remain. What was Flygon’s held item? Also a berry? Did it invariably know Screech, compared to Flamethrower for Dragon Week? And how do we assess the outside possibility that the distribution contained more than just four Pokémon? Most of our preserved ‘Mons come from Inkydog, who used Box exactly as intended (to ditch his undesirables). And DanTrain’s Box-distro sample size is puny… Just three Absol and a Seviper.

Baby & Trade Pokémon (Summer 1)
July 31 to August 6, 2004

Azurill [LV.5] @Soothe Bell (20%)
> Splash / Charm
Wynaut [LV.5]
> Splash / Charm / Encore
Gorebyss [LV.20]
> Whirlpool / Confusion / Agility
Huntail [LV.20]
> Whirlpool / Bite / Screech

Came August 2004, came four novel, successive GCEA distributions to celebrate the impending US release of FireRed & LeafGreen. “Baby & Trade Campaign” Wynaut, Azurill, Huntail and Gorebyss were the first to go live. Not that this campaign had an official name, mind you. The Pokémon official website didn’t brand or announce any of the August ’04 events. Perhaps it’s because PokeCenter New York was reduced to only machine D at this point, the others having malfunctioned. Maybe it’s because they were unthematic affairs. Or maybe it’s because the Center’s small-time activities increasingly seemed like insignificant sideshows to nationwide promotions like the Pokémon Rocks America tour. Or all three.

Whatever the case, the world forgot entirely about this distribution until DanTrain put a surprise Gorebyss (PCNYd 00012) and Wynaut (PCNYd 00014) up for sale in October 2017. Prior to this, nobody active in the Pokémon event community had even entertained the notion of Summer 2004 campaigns. I’m grateful indeed that the Project Pokémon hardware bounty included Baby & Trade campaign data, for without it, the distribution would forever have remained a known unknown. I wish Wynaut and Azurill had been PCNY Wobbuffet and Azumarill with stonkin’ movesets, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Summer 2
August 7 to 13, 2004

Kingdra [LV.35]
> Smokescreen / Leer / Water Gun / Twister
Milotic [LV.35]
> Water Pulse / Twister / Recover / Rain Dance
Zangoose [LV.18] @Quick Claw (20%)
> Leer / Quick Attack / Swords Dance / Fury Cutter
Seviper [LV.18]
> Wrap / Lick / Bite / Poison Tail

“Summer 2”, now isn’t that a catchy subtitle? I can’t really think of a suitable catch-all descriptor for two powerful water types and two landlubber-y version exclusives thrown together. The Quick Claw is a nice touch, for the item is somewhat hard to obtain in RSE,10 even if it isn’t going to do much good on a LV.18 Zangoose. Seviper’s presence isn’t very exciting after its event availability through the Box Promo a month prior, and Kingdra really ought to have the TM-exclusive Ice Beam to bring it on par with Dragon Week’s LV.45 Seadra. Milotic’s a great addition even with stock moves given how elusive Feebas are in Gen III. (Remember, the GTS / WiFi trading didn’t exist yet!)

In a case of chronological confusion, this campaign used to be filed under “Christmas Day 2003”! I haven’t a clue where this rumour originated, but many – myself included – took it as gospel until recovered campaign data suggested it wasn’t distributed in winter but, eh, during Australian Winter. There might yet have been a seahorse available for, or around, Christmastime 2003, just not this particular one. (Perhaps it was the machine B-only LV.32 Seadra distributed with Dragon Scale, which we’ve been unable to allocate a place in the timeline so far.)

Fossil & Friends (Summer 3)
August 14 to 20, 2004

Armaldo [LV.40]
> Water Gun / Metal Claw / Protect / AncientPower
Cradily [LV.40]
> Acid / Ingrain / Confuse Ray / Amnesia
Sableye [LV.18] @BrightPowder (20%)
> Foresight / Night Shade / Astonish / Fury Swipes
Mawile [LV.18]
> Astonish / Fake Tears / Bite / Sweet Scent

Ah, here’s our Sableye. You’re in the wrong campaign, buddy! Ghost Week was last year! The Summer’s third GCEA instalment is another in the 2+2 design of themed Pokémon paired with version exclusives. For whatever reason, we’ve seen very few surviving examples of this distribution: just two Armaldo, one Cradily, and no Sableye or Mawile. So how do we know these to exist? You guessed it, memory card data.

Trade & Nature Power (Summer 4)
August 21 to 27, 2004

Machamp [LV.30] @Choice Band (20%)
> Karate Chop / Seismic Toss / Foresight / Revenge
Golem [LV.30]
> Rock Throw / Magnitude / Selfdestruct / Rollout
Ludicolo [LV.20]
> Astonish / Growl / Absorb / Nature Power
Shiftry [LV.20]
> Pound / Harden / Growth / Nature Power

Here they are. The last ever Pokémon endowed with OT “PCNY”. Aren’t they a sight to behold? As far as catching ’em all goes, Summer 4 was a well-crafted distribution. Golem’s presence served as a convenience trade evo. Shiftry and Ludicolo are your routine version exclusives, and saved the player a Sun Stone and Water Stone. But the true star of the show was Machamp. His attached Choice Band is brilliant on him and tricky to obtain through standard methods in RSE. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that ~10 Machamp have been preserved but virtually none of the others.

And so the great age of PCNY distributions came to an abrupt and rather ignominious ending… Or did it? Not quite yet!

Wish Eggs [FRLG]
December 16, 2004 to January 2, 2005

Exeggcute [LV.5]
> Sweet Scent / Wish
Chansey [LV.5]
> Sweet Scent / Wish
Farfetch’d [LV.5]
> Yawn / Wish
Kangaskhan [LV.5]
> Yawn / Wish
Lickitung [LV.5]
> Heal Bell / Wish
Drowzee [LV.5]
> Belly Drum / Wish

Ah. The grand finale. The Center’s no-holds-barred, pre-closing distribution blowout… Eggs! In a real throwback to Gen II days, PokeCenter NY distributed six unhatched Pokémon with the special move Wish: Lickitung, Drowzee, Kangaskhan, Exeggcute, Farfetch’d and the most popular of all, Chansey. Since the eggs were distributed without the aid of the GCEA stations, nobody knows what those machines ran after their Summer ’04 swan song. They could’ve been on repeat duty, or permanently played back some demos, or sufficiently busted up to be shut down altogether. Who knows!

“Come On Down and Catch a Few”, Pokemon.com official website, December 16, 2004.

While this Wish distro was extremely simple in its design, by all metrics it was a hugely successful campaign. Leveraging new wireless technology compatible with FireRed and LeafGreen only, the eggs were distributed by the bucketload as Mystery Gifts.11 Since there wasn’t a need to insert a gamepak into a physical station (that could break), the process was unmonitored and fully automated and players could (and did) farm hundreds. Hatched eggs took the Trainer’s OT & TID, which makes it all but impossible to estimate distribution figures. We do know that DanTrain alone pulled in well over 200 of ’em, of which 170+ are purportedly still unhatched, and GoldUrsaring too got (at least) dozens. Other private collections are said to contain 100+ unique eggs. In the words of one collector, quantitatively these are “not rare at all”, just hyper-concentrated in the hands of a select few.

Why did players farm so many? Perhaps they thought the eggs had an increased shiny chance, like the Gen II eggs did at 10-15%. Or perhaps PCNY regulars just enjoyed sitting down in a quiet corner of the Center, downloading egg after egg with unique moves for the novelty of it, or in hope that some would hatch with beneficial natures. Even today, Wishies continue to speak to the imagination, with Chanseys in particular commanding high prices on the secondary market. Fun fact: the enduring backwards compatibility to this 2004 event is the sole reason why Pokémon like Wish Chansey and Belly Drum Hypno are still legal in tournament play.

Viewed through the prism of PCNY distributions before it, the Wish eggs are somewhat anomalous – a template for future events rather than coterminous with past ones. Imaginative and purpose-built, they were, however, a worthy conclusion to the PokeCenter New York’s brief but fabled existence.

  1. This figure was recently revealed to be $30.000/month in 2001 dollars – that’s $42.000/month in today’s money!
  2.  See for example Goldstein ed., Toys, Games, and Media (2004), p.85-86
  3.  A great newspiece on the mid-2000s slump and subsequent revival is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/27/business/27pokemon.html
  4.  As far as we know, nowhere does Nintendo preserve the memory of PC New York. As such, the effort to document it falls squarely on the shoulders of the Pokémon community.
  5.  Plus a solitary Salamence from an unknown source (00025 PCNYc).
  6.  Yeah. Curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up. In Japan’s 2016 poll of 720 Pokémon, Exploud ranked 562 (Loudred 692), Crawdaunt 557, Aggron 176 (Lairon 679), and Wailord a surprising 138 (Wailmer 440). Although now that Wailord is a Dynamax meme hero and not just a whale on steroids, I’m sure he’d rank a lot higher.
  7.  Japan got a Pokémon Sunday “Shokotan” Tropius in 2007.
  8.  Darksteel88, “PCNYd Lvl 46 Ampharos – PKRS (fake but w/e)” and “PCNYc Lvl 40 Houndoom – touched (fake but w/e)”. See Post #2 in: https://www.pokecommunity.com/showthread.php?t=105963
  9.  Boxart Flygon was removed for the US release. The PAL version showed Salamence instead of Absol.
  10.  Wild Sandshrew have a 5% chance of holding one, and they can be won from the Battle Tower in RS or purchased at the Battle Frontier for 35BP in Emerald.
  11.  It is thought a special (portable) machine was used to achieve this rather than a GBA with distribution ROM. The event eggs follow a plainer PID algorithm too that was known years before PCNY’s (ABDE vs BACD).