Interview: Steve Black Jr. of PKMNCast: It's Super Effective Talks About His Show
Pokémon is one of the longest running franchises in decades, and the second best-selling one in history. Ongoing for the past 17 years, the franchise gained a ton of dedicated fans and players. And some of those dedicated fans took their fandom to the next level by creating fan-sites, forums, and even podcasts.
"PKMNCast: It's Super Effective: is the number one Pokémon podcast and one of the highest ranking video game podcasts on iTunes right now. Not only is the show the best source of weekly news and discussions about the series, it's also the best place to hear a bunch of goofs make really bad jokes. The creator and host of the show, Steve Black Jr. (SBJ for short) has spoken to us about the show.
GameSkinny: Could you explain what PKMNCast is for people who don’t know?
Steve Black Jr.: Sure. PKMNcast is short for Pokémon podcast. PKMNcast has hosted multiple Pokémon-based podcasts, but the one that everyone knows due to popularity is “It’s Super Effective” (ISE for short). ISE has been around since the beginning of PKMNcast and the show has had over 160 episodes in the past five years.
GS: Which came first? The website or podcast?
SBJ: The podcast came first. Actually the first two episodes were recorded back to back and submitted to iTunes. As I was waiting for iTunes to accept the podcast, I started to build the site. iTunes finally accept the show within about 4 days, by then the website was up and barely working, but here we are now.
GS: Listening to older episodes of the show, you've mentioned some other, older Pokémon podcasts like Pokémon Monday and WTPT. Were they your main inspirations or reasons for making ISE? Or were there other reasons?
SBJ: I always wanted to do my own podcast. I listened to a lot back in 2010 and I still listen to just as many shows today, although those shows are very different from 5 years go. The main podcast I loved was called “1UP Yours” before 1UP.com closed down and that podcast closed as a result.
After HeartGold/SoulSilver released and couldn’t wait to hear the 1UP crew’s thoughts on the game, but after release, they never brought it up once. I was very… annoyed… so I went looking for another show that might be talking about HG/SS, and I found that GamesRadar put on a new show called “Pokémon Mondays”.
The show was very fresh in iTunes, and other shows like WTPT, which I’ve known about, stopped updating frequently. I’ve done podcasts in the past, I just never thought of doing such a specific show until I listened to PM at the time.
GS: Now, there's no reason to start a Pokémon podcast if you don't really care about it. What's your history with the series?
I’ve been playing Pokémon since Red & Blue. Watched the TV show on Monday mornings at 6:30AM, followed it when it became an afterschool show. I was a huge fan until Ruby & Sapphire. When R/S came out, I was moving 100+ miles to another town. No one played Pokémon there, so it just fell out of my life. Eventually, by the time Diamond & Pearl came out, I had the hardware and the urge to play again.
SBJ: Did I know what to do exactly – no. As one listens to the show, the editing gets better, the sound gets better, music, etc. I think that was okay at the time, but I think if I was to do that in today’s podcast age, it wouldn’t have flown as well.
GS: Did you ever expect the show to get as popular as it is now? Now, it’s the number one Pokémon podcast online and one of the top video game podcasts on iTunes.
SBJ: It’s Super Effective is a lot more popular than I would have ever guessed. About 700 listens happen in the first 24 hours of a new episode, and about 2,000 more in the weeks following. And then of course when new listeners jump on, they go back and listen to older shows and that number rises again.
The tough thing about numbers is they go with the crowds and times. ISE gets more downloads during major Pokémon announcements, as would a Halo podcast get more downloads, one can assume, during their game announcements. I mean, I can see Splatoon podcast starting soon because there are none right now, but a demand will happen once that game comes out.
GS: Was it difficult to get guests on the show before it was popular? Not just your friends, but actual people involved in the Pokémon community.
SBJ: When the show first started, it was pretty easy to get people on. The hard part that was getting people on that could talk. We’ve had guests on earlier episodes that wanted to be on really badly, but once they were on, they froze up and barely talked.
Nowadays, people are rushing to be on. We get a lot of e-mails asking to be on, it was a very successful Kickstarter reward that people could back, and lots of up and coming YouTubers always are asking to be on. It’s flattering, but very hard to accommodate.
GS: Last year, you guys went on hiatus during the summer and started a Kickstarter to fund the show's next 100 episodes. (The fundraiser was quite successful, too.) What made you go to Kickstarter and ask the fans for help?
SBJ: I’ve had success with Kickstarter in the past and I personally back a lot of projects there, so I knew I wanted to do a KS to make the show better. I think what really helped is that we fist established ourselves for 4 years before asking fans for money. I think that’s important. The big thing you see today are new Twitch streams, podcasters, or YouTubers just starting up asking for money right away.
I believe in putting your passion into something for a while and being consistent and getting better before asking for money. If you are asking for money right away, you’re intentions are clearly backed by cash and not because it’s something that you want to do. I never wanted people to think that I do the show to make money; I do the show because I love doing the show. After 150+ episodes and 4 years of consistency, I finally felt okay asking for money to make the show even better
GS: After the show came back in November, you guys were pretty hard on and negative about the series. Is it out of love or frustration? Or both?
SBJ: I am very critical in everything I love – that’s my personality. I am a big Apple fanboy, but I was very negative about both the iPad and the Apple Watch. I am still pretty negative about both, but that’s only because I want those devices to be more than what they are. I play a lot of Destiny, but there are things about it I cannot stand, so I am vocal because that game in particular is always changing.
So when it comes to Pokémon, I talk about it weekly and my thoughts are always changing. Have you ever listened to a podcast where everybody loves the topic and is in agreement the entire time? It’s boring and hard to listen to. A lot of the times, I will stir up drama just to get others talking, too.
GS: Do you have any real issues with Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire? Since it came out, you guys have been pretty negative about it.
I don’t think ORAS was a good remake like HeartGold & SoulSilver, but to me, it’s in the past now. We will continue talking about it until the next Pokémon game… But that’s where our journey kind of sits now with Pokémon: there always seems to be a slightly leveled up, but never fully evolved game on the horizon.
PKMNCast releases a new episode every week. For those of you who want to find out more about the show, you can go to its official website, iTunes,Twitter, or Facebook. You can also find SBJ on Twitter (and if you ask nicely, he'll probably play Destiny with you).