If you didn’t own Pokémon Snap, you could play a short demo of it on the Pokémon Snap Station and print out photos of some minor Pokémon celebrities. Once Pokémon Stadium came out in February 2000, the Pokémon Snap Stations received new stickers advertising the strategy-battle game. Players could print out images from that game, too.
Ganos’ obsession with the Pokémon Snap Station sprung from his obsession with Pokémon Snap’s immersiveness. He could interact with his favorite pocket monsters, learning their habits and getting them to pose, and capture those moments on camera. And it fit in so snugly with the whole Pokémon world: The game had Professor Oak’s original voice actor from the Pokémon anime. In Pokémon Snap, Ganos played a character from the anime, professional Pokémon photographer Todd Snap. The Pokémon even sounded like they did on TV. “That’s the first time those two worlds collided,” he says.
Collectors today fall over themselves searching for Pokémon Snap Stations, which Blockbuster abandoned after a couple short years. One in Bellingham, Washington, is being offered for $12,345, although collectors say they typically see them going for about $2,000 to 4,000. Matthew Gerry, 31, once dedicated himself to finding a Pokémon Snap Station for a solid six months. He built an application that searched the internet every few minutes for new listings. None emerged, and he gave up. But eight years ago, the owner of a dilapidated arcade shutting down in Missouri told him that he had a “Nintendo thing” that had been sitting in his closet for a decade. Gerry bought the Pokémon Snap Station for $120, repairing just a light and a couple of decorative touches.
More recently, a Pokémon YouTuber who goes by RealBreakingNate bought one off Facebook Marketplace in the summer of 2019 for what he calls a “crazy good deal”: $1,400. He drove four hours each way between Indiana and Ohio to pick it up. It came from a closed Blockbuster in Philadelphia.
Now that the Nintendo Switch is getting New Pokémon Snap game on April 30, Ganos has engineered a way to connect his Pokémon Snap Station to his Switch. “It’s just using a micro SD card, so it’s kind of cheating,” he says. He’s curious about how the new, younger generation of people brought into the world of Pokémon photography will feel about its lost physical component. When his daughter comes into the room where his Pokémon Snap Station lives, she gleefully watches the printer move as the stickers come out hot. It’s worlds away from the slick pocket printers displayed at Best Buy or Target.
Today, the ability to physically manifest digital things is a given. Maybe New Pokémon Snap players will be able to print their creations off the Switch’s SD cards; but without the pilgrimage to Blockbuster, the altar to Pokémon, or the theater of the thing, will it be the same?
“A device like this doesn’t belong in a modern society,” he says. “It’s a relic from an age that’s gone.”
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