SINGAPORE - The new limited edition Pikachu carrier released by McDonald’s on Thursday was a big hit with fans.
Short queues began to form at some restaurants about 30 minutes to an hour before the 11am launch and people streamed in to make a purchase throughout the day.
While some customers had intended to queue overnight for the holders modelled in the likeness of the iconic electric mouse, the restaurant's employees encouraged them to return in the morning as queue tickets would be given out only closer to 11am.
The carrier, which can be purchased for $12.90 with selected meals, was sold out by 6pm at a number of McDonald’s outlets including those at Alexandra Retail Centre, Queensway Mall, Clementi Mall and Bukit Merah.
The Straits Times understands that there were about 300 sets available at most stores.
Some customers could be seen inquiring about the release and joining the queue at McDonald’s outlets such as those at Jem shopping mall in Jurong and at Ang Mo Kio Hub from 10am on Thursday.
At Jem, the first person in line was a 36-year-old engineering lecturer from Singapore Polytechnic who wanted to be known only as Ms Yu.
She was at the outlet at 9am, but there was no one else in line.
Ms Yu, who had previously collected the Hello Kitty and My Melody carriers, said: "It's already past 10am and there's no one. It seems like Pikachu isn't as popular as Hello Kitty.
"Personally, I love Pikachu. I can do without My Melody and Hello Kitty, but I must have the Pikachu (carrier)."
Ms Yu said she did not expect the queue to be as long as for the earlier carriers, but did not think it would be so quiet either.
"But it's a good thing. If people started queueing at 4am or 5am, I would have to buy on Carousell," she said, referring to the online marketplace.
At the Hillion mall outlet, self-professed Pokemon and Pikachu fan Chu Yu Hui was the first in line, having arrived at the restaurant at 9.30am.
The 26-year-old student care teacher likewise said she had expected longer queues.
Behind her was Mr Rizal Rahman, a 43-year-old who works in the IT industry.
"There are not a lot of people (here), but it could be because people are mostly working from the office instead of working from home nowadays,” he said.
At the Ang Mo Kio Hub outlet, restaurant staff said they had 387 sets, and that stocks would not be replenished once they were sold out.
By 10.30am, there were 12 people in line. First was Miss Carine Heng, a 48-year-old logistics executive who arrived just before 10am. She said she was buying the carrier for her six- year-old nephew who is "crazy about Pokemon".
"It is a surprise for him. He collects trading cards and soft toys," she said. "I did not plan to be first, but since I am here and since they have put up the poles, I decided to queue."
In response to media queries on its preparations ahead of the launch, a McDonald's Singapore spokesman said its ticketing system will help manage crowd capacity, although a ticket alone does not guarantee availability of a Pikachu carrier.
"The tickets will help us manage and advise how many carriers are left for sale," said the spokesman.
Some of McDonald’s previous toy launches have sparked collectors’ frenzy.
In 2000, the fast-food chain launched a 40-day Wedding Design Hello Kitty toy promotion, based on the popular Japanese feline icon Hello Kitty and its companion, Dear Daniel. The pair came in six designs and 400,000 sets of each design were produced.
The promotion is remembered for drawing islandwide queues by the thousands. The long lines became hot spots for frayed nerves that led to some unruly behaviour, as well as spats among impatient customers.
The 2013 release of Hello Kitty in fairy tale costumes also famously drew long queues and fisticuffs, as some patrons jostled to get their hands on black-and-white The Singing Bone Hello Kitty plushies.
The fast-food chain has experimented with online purchases of its previous toy launches in a bid to quell the queues. In 2013, it offered online purchases for figurines from the hit animated movie Despicable Me 2, and again in 2014 when it launched another set of Hello Kitty plush toys.
Just an hour into the Pikachu carrier's launch, the toys began to show up on online marketplaces.
As at 12.30pm, there were more than 100 listings of the carrier or its accompanying Pokemon trading card on Carousell.
While most were for sale at between $30 and $50, one listing at $15,000 appeared to be social commentary on the nature of such collectibles.
"Better than air. Hoping this will pay off for iPhone 14," quipped the sales post.
- Additional reporting by Lee Li Ying, Amelia Loh