PokéBase - Pokémon Q&A
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In Generation 1, you either had to:

  1. Apply for an event Pokemon, usually with a ticket, lottery, postcard, magazine, or by mailing your cartridge to Gamefreak. For example:

Pokémon 2 Production Start announcement Mew

Announcement in the August 1996 issue of CoroCoro Comics
This Mew distribution was originally revealed in the August 1996 issue (which was released on July 15, 1996). It was distributed to promote the Pokémon 2 Production Start News Flash!! (Japanese: ポケモン2制作スタート特報!!), announcing that Pokémon 2 had begun production.

Players had to send in an application to Game Freak by August 9, 1996 for a chance to be one of the 100 players selected to receive Mew. The promotion received over 80,000 applicants. Selected players had to post their Pokémon game cartridge to Game Freak, who would add Mew to their game, then return it.

  1. Physically go and collect the Pokemon through a Game Link Cable or Pokemon Machine. For example:

Nintendo Space World '99 Mew

This Mew was distributed at Nintendo Space World '99, which was held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan. At this distribution, players connected their game cartridge to a Mew machine. On-screen, a visual of a Mew traveling through a cable to the player's game would appear.

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