and Pokémon Pearl
are both about to be released in Europe very soon (27 July) much to the excitement of our younger sons, siblings and nephews as well as the strange fully-grown men who are also Pokémon obsessives here at SPOnG.
So when Nintendo called SPOnG up recently to ask me if I would like to meet ‘father of Pokémon’ Tsunekazu Ishihara (pictured right) who, along with Satoshi Tajiri, conceived the original idea for Pokémon, then of course I said yes.
Ishihara founded Creatures Inc back in 1995 to produce the original games which kicked off the worldwide phenomenon that is Pokémon – starting with the original Pokémon Red
– and in 1998 he founded The Pokémon Company.
He is 49 years old and is currently involved in the development of new Pokémon products, as well as being responsible for the overall brand management of Pokémon.
Oh, and he has a deep love for toys, which is both rare and touching for a very important:
Read on to find out what he had to tell me. SPOnG:
Hi, before we start to talk more about the new Pokemon games [Pokemon Diamond
and Pokemon Pearl
] I just wanted to ask how long you are in the UK for?Tsunekazu Ishihara:
Just for two days this time.SPOnG:
And will you take any time off to go sightseeing? Anything in particular you want to do or see while you’re here in London?Tsunekazu Ishihara:
Maybe get some nice sushi, perhaps.SPOnG:
Yeah? You’re not a fan of English roast beef?Tsunekazu Ishihara:
[laughs] Ah, roast beef! Yes, I like it very much.SPOnG:
So where else are you going in Europe while you are over?Tsunekazu Ishihara:
Just two days in the UK and then straight back to Japan.SPOnG:
Okay, well before we move on to talk specifically about Pokemon Diamond
and Pokemon Pearl
, I’d just like to talk a little about the history of Pokémon, particularly for those of our readers who are not so familiar with the franchise or have never played the games before. Going back to 1995, back to Pokémon Red
– can you tell us about the original inspiration behind the concept?Tsunekazu Ishihara:
So, the original Pokémon Red
were released in Japan in February 1996, based on an original idea from Satoshi Tajiri from a company called Game Freak
. His idea was coming up with a design for a game for this new handheld console, the Nintendo Game Boy, by utilising the network cable that was available at the time so that you could battle against other players and trade and so on. So, this is how it all originally started.
The fact that you catch Pokémon comes from Mr. Tajiri’s childhood experiences – as he used to enjoy catching insects as a child.SPOnG:
Is that the secret of Pokémon’s success? That it’s something that’s universally understood by children worldwide?Tsunekazu Ishihara:
Yes, exactly. That’s the secret of its success!SPOnG:
The first game was out in 1996 in Japan. How long was that game in development? When did Mr Tajiri come up with the original idea for the game? Tsunekazu Ishihara:
Well, the development itself took three years. But the conception of the idea took probably around six years, so we started with the original idea in 1990, so around six years in total.SPOnG:
So, prior to that, before 1990, what’s your own personal background?Tsunekazu Ishihara:
Back then I was already producing videogames.SPOnG:
Why the move across from Creatures Inc to The Pokémon Company?Tsunekazu Ishihara:
It’s not necessarily a shift in importance or anything like that, its just that The Pokémon Company was set up to manage the Pokémon “brand” – all the other companies, Creatures Inc, Game Freak and Nintendo, of course, they all exist and they are all shareholders of The Pokémon Company. And they all play their own role. So it’s not necessarily a shift in importance. It was just necessary to create a company to manage the overall branding of Pokémon.