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Pokemon Center London swamped by fans on opening weekend

A pop-up Pokemon Center opened in the British capital on Friday, ahead of Sword and Shield's release on Nintendo Switch, but the crowds turned out to be a little extreme.

Britain felt an urgent need to catch 'em all over the weekend, with the opening of a Pokemon Center in London to celebrate the upcoming Sword and Shield's UK-inspired Galar region. Unlike the healing centers in the games, real-life Pokemon Centers are basically stores devoted to merchandise for the franchise, with some exclusive merch themed around the bowler hat-wearing London commuter Pikachu -- like plushies, pins and umbrellas.

CNET was invited to visit the Pokemon Center London in Westfield Shepherd's Bush ahead of its opening, so check out our video tour of the store to see what awaits. 

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Pikachu is ready for the streets of London.

Will Potter/GameSpot

The £240 (around $305) giant Pikachu plush was sold during the preview event, but we were told they'd get a few more into the store. If that's too pricey, you can pick up a £20 ($25) London Pikachu plush -- or products based on Sword and Shield starters Grookey, Scorbunny and Sobble.

If merch (or spending money) isn't your bag, you can also try out a free 10-minute demo of Sword and Shield on Nintendo Switch (or Switch Lite, if you prefer the portable experience). Pokemon Go players will also find increased spawns of Psyduck, Vaporeon, Jolteon, Flareon, Combee and several other Pokemon around the Westfield center.

The lines to get into the store were pretty extreme over the weekend, with people reporting waits of up to six hours on Friday and Westfield cutting off further queuing before 12 p.m. on Sunday.

"The interest in the shop launch has been unprecedented -- we've never had a queue this long before," the center tweeted.

The Pokemon Center London will remain open until Nov. 15, the day Sword and Shield comes out. If you want to go but don't fancy waiting for hours to get in, we'd advise holding off a few weeks until the initial excitement dies down. 

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Hardcore trainers will be making another trip to Britain's capital next year. The 2020 Pokemon World Championships will be held there, the company said in a Twitter exchange between the US and UK accounts back in August. We don't have dates yet, but they've been held in August each year since 2004.

The championships include competitive tournaments in the main video game series (2020 will be the first to use Sword and Shield), the Trading Card GamePokken Tournament and Pokemon Go (which had its first invitational in 2019). Even if you're not seriously into the competitive aspect, there will be plenty of trading meetups, cosplay and merchandise.

First published Aug. 5.
Update, Oct. 18: Adds video tour of Pokemon Center London and more details about the store.
Update, Oct. 21: Notes long lines over the opening weekend.