Game Freak Expanded Their Studio To Develop Pokémon X And Pokémon Y

By Sato . October 10, 2013 . 4:36pm

While Game Freak are known for developing the universally popular Pokémon series, they’re not exactly the largest game development studio around. In an interview with 4Gamer, art director Ken Sugimori and director Tetsuya Watanabe shared a little insight on the company and its recent growth thanks to Pokémon X and Y.


In an earlier interview featuring Game Freak developers, they discussed the company’s unique game development process, dubbed “Gear,” that allows any member of the company to brainstorm an idea, which is then put into motion once they can get three other staff members to agree and join in on the brainstorming.


Thus far, Gear has been used to develop two titles—HarmoKnight and Soliti Horse, both of which have been released on the Nintendo eShop. 4Gamer asks about what it was like to plan a new game prior to the introduction of the Gear program.


“If anything, it was something close to the form of a top-down [design],” says Watanabe. “Whenever a development for Pokémon had calmed down, it was something like, ‘let’s get someone young to do it,’ as we warmed to the idea of whoever was planning it, and advanced from there.”


“Additionally, the advancement of projects were always centered around the planners, but we’ve recently got rid of such limitations, so it has changed into something that gives us more freedom,” Watanabe adds.


4Gamer then asks whether Game Freak have a Pokémon development line concurrently running at the same time with other games that use the Gear development process.


“It feels like it has finally become that way,” Sugimori says. “Previously, due to the work put into Pokémon, it was virtually impossible to have other lines [of development]. Simply saying ‘that’s difficult’ won’t get you anywhere, and Gear has been put into action so we can say ‘let’s do our best even if it doesn’t seem possible,’ instead. Our company isn’t actually that large in the first place, so having multiple lines of development alone was already tough for us.”


Considering the magnitude of popularity the Pokémon franchise boasts, one would think that Game Freak has a massive development team. According to Watanabe, however, that isn’t the case.


“Right now, we have over 80 employees, but this is the result of expanding for the development of Pokémon X and Y,” shares Watanabe. “Previously, we had roughly 50 to 60 people, and before that we had much less. Also, to us, Pokémon is a very important piece of work, so we put a considerable amount of energy into it. So, making something other than Pokémon has always been a tough situation for us.”


“While many of our young staff members have pride in working on Pokémon, I believe that another part of them feel something like, ‘It’s not a game that we created.’”


“The feeling of creating something from scratch and watching it grow, is an exceptional feeling, after all,” adds Sugimori.


Watanabe concludes, “So I think that it’s best for our company’s young staff members to take the opportunity to gain that experience. Working independently, and arguing while advancing through projects might be an experience that won’t end well at first; however, thinking ahead five or ten years, I believe that [experience] will become a necessity.”


Photograph courtesy 4Gamer.

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  • TheGioG

    And all your hard work’s gonna pay off, Game Freak. The games look awesome, anticipation is through the roof, and so many wallets are ready to throw their Pokedollars at you come Saturday. Hope y’all accept Rupees in my case…

  • JohnNiles

    “…thinking ahead five or ten years, I believe that [experience] will become a necessity.”

    This guy is thinking ahead five or ten years about his employees. That puts him way ahead of most managerial types.

    • Sergio Briceño

      When you copy & paste a text from Siliconera it adds the link to the article you copied the text from. Fix your comment, it’s too long.

      But to be honest with you, you made a good point. Though it’s fairly “easier” to achieve that with a small team as it’s more manageable.

      Edit: un-downvoted you since you corrected the mistake.

      • JohnNiles

        I fixed it right after I refreshed and noticed it. The link text looks invisible until you refresh it.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        60 is still alot of people.

        Some Teachers cant manage 30 kids you know.

        • School Idol Addict

          You can’t compare kids to adult.
          True some teachers can’t handle 30 kids, but give them the chance and i’m sure most of them could handle 60 adults

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Adults are still devious children inside :

          • JustThisOne

            Somewhat true. Although, office politics have torn through companies before – and that’s not a thing I see happen to kindergarten classes.

            EDIT: Err… but I digress. I got really off topic. x__x Sorry.

          • Chris Evan Jonance Ingeniero

            typical school teachers in the philippines handle 50++ students~

  • Gotta tip off your hat for these guys. They came a long way, and always striving to deliver the fans the very best like no one ever was.

    • JustThisOne

      To catch all the new talent is their real test, and to train the next generation is their cause. :V

      • Herok♞

        They will travel across the land releasing worldwide

        • JustThisOne

          They’ll teach the new devs to understand the power that’s insiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide… Gamefreak.

    • @JustThatOne:disqus @Cyberninja776:disqus I just wanna say that I love that. You all made my night. >u<

    • Heisst

      I don’t think giving fans only 70 new pokemon and no post-game is ”delivering”.

      • Chris Evan Jonance Ingeniero

        considering that we already have 700++ pokemon.. adding 70 is a minor thing

  • Rogerrmark

    Pokemon was never a major production to tell the truth,so a small team makes sense.

    In fact,the main games DO have a hardcore,niche vibe (gameplay-wise)

    But,unlike niche games,it sells absurdly,and appeals to alot of people.

    It’s amazing,if you think about it.

    • PreyMantis

      Indeed. It kinda frustrates me when others would just write of Pokémon without knowing the deep mechanics of the game just because the games are colorful.

  • JustThisOne

    I feel like this franchise ought to have a documentary. I want to see what really goes on in the inside. Or at least all that they can show us, anyway.

    I really want to know! *__*

    • GH56734

      On GlitteBerri’s site, quite a bit of insider info about the first Pokémon making-of process was translated from obscure Japanese interviews.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Dont give people more things to kickstart

  • ShadowDivz

    The more you know!

  • Yvonne Tsang

    I think it’s great that they don’t expand to an overly large company. Though they may make more games if they do expand, I always feel like games become less heartfelt than if they were done in small teams. Keeps communications tight and I think allows them to do more of what they feel is fun as opposed to profitable.

    Of course, they’ll still rake in millions.

  • VenerableSage

    And the following quote is, I feel, a large part of the problem with the Pokemon franchise:
    “While many of our young staff members have pride in working on Pokémon, I believe that another part of them feel something like, ‘It’s not a game that we created.’”

    Masuda’s still running things and, like Miyamoto, it seems to me that he keeps the decision-making very well contained. As such, the other staff members, since they weren’t the creative vision behind it, don’t feel comfortable suggesting change to the series (or Masuda isn’t comfortable with making those changes).

    This is the development team that has repeatedly crafted ridiculously strong Pokemon (a large number of them Dragons) and then decides years too late that “Oops, this was a bad idea!”. This is the same team that continues to recycle the same, overused plot outline (new trainer in small town, get Fire/Grass/Water starter, challenge Gym Leaders, challenge Elite Four, become the Champion, battle a generic “evil” organization that is so inept a child can single-handedly defeat them, etc.) in every single main series game.

    If there are people smart enough to come up with better, new, or fresh ideas out there on the internet (and even spend their time fiddling with the games’ code or developing fan games), then there’s gotta be a disconnect somewhere in the company. These guys are paid to develop these games; they can’t be that clueless compared to the fans on the internet.

    (Not to say that I don’t enjoy the games, just that if other people can realize these things and make all of these different thoughts and observations (i.e. consider all of the discussions about how to improve certain Pokemon, what movesets to improve or change, etc.), then it’s absolutely baffling that Game Freak isn’t able to do so.)

    • J_Joestar

      I don’t think that is what he means by “it’s not a game that we created”
      Take into consideration Sugimori’s line afterwards about “creating it from scratch and watching it grow”

      I don’t think they meant “Game” as in Pokemon X & Y but as in “Pokemon” the franchise itself. Thus in the long run, for the younger developers it is more that they are using their creativity to add-on to someone else’s work rather than creating something truly original of their own.

  • Raichu

    This is so cool! Thanks for sharing, Gamefreak, and kudos to you because your Pokemon games are outstanding. I know I speak for many more than just myself when I say they were an important part of my childhood and growing up, and they’re still an important part of my life now as a young adult. Thank you!

  • Göran Isacson

    Good guys Gamefreak. That is all I can say after reading this.

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