China will soon have official Pokémon merchandise for the first time in nearly 20 years. The Sixth Tone reports that The Pokémon Company is teaming up with Alibaba Pictures, a subsidiary of the world’s largest retailer Alibaba.
Alibaba is best known for its massive retail website, which dwarfs Amazon in comparison. The partnership will allow Alibaba to manufacture and distribute Pokémon merchandise around China, the first time Pokémon has officially had a merchandise presence within the company.
Pokémon’s partnership with Alibaba began earlier this month, when a Pokémon exhibition appeared in a mall in Hangzhou, the city in which Alibaba is headquartered. The exhibition was centered around a nearly 30 foot Pikachu, smiling in the middle of the mall.
This marks a big step for Pokémon’s expansion plans into China. While the franchise has long been popular in Japan, Pokémon has struggled to gain an “official” presence within the country outside of Hong Kong. Although both the manga and anime are popular in China, Pokémon Sun and Moon was the first Pokémon game to officially have Chinese language options. The popular mobile game Pokémon GO is banned in China due to governmental security concerns. Bootleg versions of the game and merchandise have also plagued Pokémon’s ability to fully profit off of its Chinese fanbase.
Alibaba estimates it will sell over $3 million in officially licensed Pokémon products by the end of this year.