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Players Compete For Title of Pokemon World Champion

Pokemon fanatics gathered in San Francisco Friday for the start of a three day tournament to crown several Pokemon world champions.

While Pokemon Go has swept the world this summer, bringing in new players who had perhaps never before interacted with the brand, the annual world championships forego the popular mobile game.

"We approached Go as an opportunity to expose people to the Pokemon world," J.C. Smith, The Pokemon Company's senior consumer marketing director, told NBC News at the event.

More than 1,700 players from around the world compete in the annual Pokemon World Championships in San Francisco, Aug. 19. Alyssa Newcomb / NBC News

A total of eight winners across age divisions will be crowned world champions across three different tracks: the Pokemon trading card game, Pokemon video games and a Wii U fighting game called Pokken Tournament.

Kendahl Burk, 10, from Richmond, Washington has been playing Pokemon for half of his life. He's competing at the junior level and is one of 1,700 players of all ages and from nearly three dozen countries who have made the Pokemon pilgrimage.

"It brings me the thrill of competition. It is one of the things I love," Burk said. "But you can meet tons of new friends in it. It's how I've met over half my friends already."

With a cumulative $500,000 prize pot, players are serious about winning. However, Smith also said the event is a way for the Pokemon community to come together and celebrate the brand, which is in its twentieth year.

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Pokemon is big business. Over the span of two decades, the company said it has shipped 21.5 billion trading cards worldwide. They've also sold more than 280 million core units of the game franchise, putting Pokemon second of all time behind Super Mario.

Players compete during the annual Pokemon World Championships began on Aug. 19, in San Francisco. More than 1,700 players from around the world are participating. Alyssa Newcomb / NBC News

Smith says the appeal comes down community and the characters.

"You don't see the same strategy every time," he said.

While the championships may be full of Pokemon diehards, Smith said he expects some new trainers who have filtered into the brand through Pokemon Go to join the competition next year.

"We have always had this great group of people that have been playing. Next year, I bet we will have a much different set of people coming through and trying it out for the first time," he said.