When you think of K-pop, you probably think of beautiful people performing utterly infectious music. You aren’t likely to be thinking of video games. However, K-pop and video games have overlapped in intriguing and diverse ways over the years. One might argue that there are five general areas where the two have intersected: (1) the presence of K-pop music and/or idols in music-centric or rhythm video games like The Idolm@ster or Just Dance, (2) K-pop idols or groups promoting Korea-centric video games like Sudden Attack or PUBG Mobile with commercials (CFs) and/or in-game branded items, (3) K-pop idols contributing new music to video games or video game projects like with K/DA and League of Legends, (4) actual video games about real K-pop idols like Rain Wonder Trip and BTS World, and (5) K-pop idols promoting broad-appeal video games like Pokémon in commercials.
Suffice to say, this is a big topic, but K-Pop Answers will attempt to provide a robust overview, one piece at a time, until we are satisfied it is comprehensive. For now, we will begin with the final item of the five described above: K-pop idols and groups promoting broad-appeal popular video games in commercials, which are often described as “CFs” (“commercial films”).
K-Pop Idols & Groups Who Promoted Broad-Appeal Video Games in Commercials (CFs)
March – April 2010: Girls’ Generation – Nintendo DSi
Nintendo has understood the value of using K-pop idols to promote its hardware and video games for many years, as evidenced by its use of Girls’ Generation (SNSD) in 2010 to promote the Nintendo DSi handheld console and its unique features. YouTube channel aslotussradio has helpfully archived the different permutations of these promotions.
October – December 2011: Yoochun – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
In late 2011, JYJ member Yoochun advertised The Legend of Zelda for its 25th anniversary, especially its new release on Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Several separate videos are available on YouTube of Yoochun discussing the series and promoting the games.
May 2012: JYJ – Mario Kart 7
In May 2012, the aforementioned JYJ, a group composed of former TVXQ members, promoted Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo DS, and Gong Hyo-jin (dressed up as Mario) also participated. There are a few permutations of these CFs available on YouTube.
November 2012: Suzy – New Super Mario Bros. 2
The legendarily beautiful Suzy, then of JYP Entertainment girl group Miss A, promoted New Super Mario Bros. 2 on Nintendo DS in November 2012, and a longer commercial featured her with entertainer Haha.
March 2020: Jeon Somi – Nintendo & Animal Crossing: New Horizons
In March 2020, former IOI member and current solo artist Jeon Somi promoted the launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch in a cozy CF.
2021: Twice – Nintendo Switch Games (Miitopia, Ring Fit Adventure, Mario Golf: Super Rush)
In 2021, Nintendo teamed up with JYP Entertainment girl group Twice for a variety of promotions, including a Nintendo Switch pictorial, CFs for games Miitopia, Ring Fit Adventure, and Mario Golf: Super Rush, and a longer video commercial for Miitopia. Twice and Nintendo have surely made for one of the most enticing combinations of K-pop idols promoting video games in commercials. And it is well established that Mina enjoys video games; there is even an official Twice YouTube video of Mina just playing Minecraft!
2022: Itzy – The Pokémon Company (Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Pokémon Unite, Pokémon TCG)
Just as Nintendo and Twice enjoyed a strong partnership together, so too did The Pokémon Company (co-owned by Nintendo) and JYP Entertainment girl group Itzy in 2022. Itzy promoted the Pokémon franchise broadly, including Pokémon Legends: Arceus on Nintendo Switch, Pokémon Unite on mobile devices (and Switch), and Pokémon Trading Card Game. In fact, official PR for Pokémon for this promotion even included two short interviews with the Itzy members, and K-Pop Answers is in possession of those original emails. Oddly, the names of the Itzy members are translated irregularly here, but for posterity’s sake, we are including both original interviews below, unedited.
Interview with Itzy for Promoting Pokémon:
What did you think when you decided to tie up with “Pokemon”?
Yeaji: I was happy to hear that I could work with “Pokemon,” which is known by many people and which I have loved since I was a child.
Chae-ryong: I’m very happy to be working on “Pokemon”! I’ve been watching it since I was a kid, so I feel nostalgic and honored at the same time!
YoonA: I’m really happy that we decided to tie up with “Pokemon”. Please give me much anticipation and love for the future with my very, very favorite “Pokémon” and their friends~!
What is your favorite Pokémon? What is your favorite Pokémon?
Leah: I used to like “Kabigon,” but I fell in love with “Eevee” during this shoot… (laughs)
Chae-ryong: My favorite Pokémon is “Eevee”! I think it’s beautiful with its sparkling eyes!
What are your memories of “Pokemon”?
Yeaji: I’ve been told a few times that I look like Eevee. It made me happy because Eevee is one of my favorite Pokémon!
Leah: When I was a kid, I would always watch Pokémon in front of the TV every morning. It was my routine for the day!
Lujin: When I was playing games as a child, my parents got angry with me because I was playing too much for fun.
Interview with Itzy for Pokémon Legends: Arceus in “Wannabe a Legend” commercial:
1. How do you feel about this shoot?
Leah: I grew up watching Pokémon since I was a kid, so I’m very happy to have a tie-up! I had a lot of fun during the filming (laughs). Originally, I liked Snorlax, but I fell in love with Eevee during this shoot… (laughs)
Ryuujin: It was a great honor and a strange feeling to be a model for a Pokémon commercial, which I’ve loved since I was a child.
2. Have you ever played a Pokémon game?
Yeaji: I remember walking around and catching Pokémon when “Pokémon GO” was even more exciting than it is now! I think I mainly caught the cute ones.
Ryuujin: I was always playing with a game console when I was little.
Chae-ryong: I was addicted to “Pokémon GO” and once walked around Gangnam Station with YoonA on a cold winter day. It was fun to see so many new Pokémon, different from my usual commute, and we often walked around even though it was cold!
YoonA: When I was a trainee, I got hooked on “Pokémon GO” with my sister Chae-ryong, and I remember walking around Gangnam Station with her, trying to catch Pokémon with more enthusiasm than anyone else.
November 2022: Kep1er – Sonic Frontiers
Not every major crossover of K-pop groups and video games for commercials has begun with Nintendo! Sega teamed up with WAKEONE girl group Kep1er in November 2022 to promote the launch of Sonic the Hedgehog game Sonic Frontiers, in part because because the Kep1er song “Wa Da Da” has a lyric that goes, “Like a supersonic.”
This is by no means every example of K-pop idols and groups that promoted mainstream video games in commercials / CFs, and we shall continue to add more examples with time. However, this should hopefully give you a good overview! Please stick with K-Pop Answers for additional insights into the ways K-pop and video games have intersected over time. We know there is still a lot of ground to cover, such as, to pick one of many examples, the Enhypen / Pokémon MV collaboration!