Showdown at the Po-Ké Corral
To Master the Onix-pected
For Ho-Oh The Bells Toll!
Xatu the Future
Talkin’ ‘Bout an Evolution
Here’s Lookin’ At You Elekid!
Stairway to Devon
Let Bagons Be Bagons
Take This House and Shuppet
When @moxielox told me she was stopping by the Pokémon Center in NYC today, I thought it would be a good day to dig up some interesting details about the series’ early days.
In Japan, where the Pokemon were born, Ash is called Satoshi; and Satoshi was made in the image of his creator, Satoshi Tajiri, a young outcast who, as a boy living just outside Tokyo, collected insects and other tiny creatures of field, pond and forest.
Every time I found a new insect, it was mysterious to me. And the more I searched for insects, the more I found. If I put my hand in the river, I would get a crayfish. If there was a stick over a hole, it would create an air bubble and I’d find insects there. […] In Japan, a lot of kids like to go out and catch beetles by putting honey on a piece of tree bark. My idea was to put a stone under a tree, because they slept during the day and like sleeping under stones. So in the morning I’d go pick up the stone and find them. Tiny discoveries like that made me excited.
Then, in 1991, he discovered Nintendo’s Game Boy and its prize feature: a cable that could link any two Game Boys together. “I imagined an insect moving back and forth across the cable. That’s what inspired me.” Tajiri had hit upon the basic idea that would make the Pokemon a marketing wonder.
During the six years it took Tajiri to finish Pokemon, GameFreak nearly went broke. For several months, he barely had enough money to pay his employees. Five people quit when he told them how dire the financial conditions were. Tajiri didn’t pay himself, but lived off his father.
Nintendo spent over fifty million dollars to promote the games, fearing the series would not be appealing to American children. The western localization team warned that the “cute monsters” may not be accepted by American audiences, and instead recommended they be redesigned and “beefed-up”. Then-president of Nintendo Hiroshi Yamauchi refused and instead viewed the games’ possible reception in America as a challenge to face.
Once the games were finished, very few media outlets gave it attention, believing the Game Boy was a dead console; a general lack of interest of merchandising convinced Tajiri that Nintendo would reject the games. The Pokémon games were not expected to do well, but sales steadily increased until the series found itself among Nintendo’s top franchises. […] The franchise helped revive Nintendo, whose sales had been waning.
Bet they’re happy to have been wrong about that. Pokémon alone was probably enough to keep the lights on at Nintendo during some of their most difficult years.
Addendum: Tajiri explains to TIME why Pokémon “faint” instead of passing out.
TIME: Still, American kids like Pokémon, even without the blood.
Tajiri: I was really careful in making monsters faint rather than die. I think that young people playing games have an abnormal concept about dying. They start to lose and say, “I’m dying.” It’s not right for kids to think about a concept of death that way. They need to treat death with more respect.