Number one, for plot. They need something different than just, "fight gym, get stronger" in the anime. Second, they probably don't want to have to train up a new Pokemon when one already strong is right there [eg. why Team Rocket is always after Pikachu. It's something funny for the kids to laugh at, and it provides plot. Inside the lore, Pikachu is a very strong Pokemon and they want the rewards for obtaining it].