Pokémon Producer On What It Takes To Make A “Fun” Game

By Sato . November 1, 2013 . 5:28pm

Pokémon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara recently starred on an NHK program called “Professional—Style of Work,” where he showed off a sneak-peek of their upcoming detective game featuring Pikachu. On NHK’s website, they share a few additional quotes that were cut out from the original program.


When it comes to marketing, Ishihara doesn’t focus much on making something for the purpose of selling, as he looks into his own “playful heart” more than anything. Unless he’s satisfied with a product and personally thinks its entertaining, he won’t give it the green light.


Regardless of a product’s market size, and whether it’s a video game or board game, Ishihara thoroughly plays them to make sure it meets his standards regarding what he considers to be entertaining. There have even been occasions where The Pokémon Company has invested several years and funds into the development of a product, only to have it be turned down at the very end.


Again, it’s not a matter of whether a product looks like it’d be able to sell well, but rather, the thought of wanting to bring something amusing to this world, that drives Ishihara.


“I believe that when the makers get tired or bored of making, that’s when it should immediately be stopped,” says Ishihara. “I believe that losing your feeling of wanting to present something to the world, or the passion you have for it, is the worst possible scenario.”


Having faith in your “playful heart” is what Ishihara considers to be his greatest conviction.


This past summer, Ishihara began working on a new game that involves a bold change to Pikachu, a challenge he has yet to face. After his birth 17 years ago, Pikachu has become a Pokémon that is loved across the globe. Making such a significant change will be a huge gamble for Ishihara and the others, which could possibly result in a loss of popularity for the beloved character.


“When it comes to continuously providing something new, to a degree, it also means losing some of the older good qualities it originally had,” explains Ishihara. “Then you take that, and make it into something that can be accepted by everyone, by cautiously implementing new ideas. That is where we have to put in untiring effort—or rather, you could call it a challenge.”


NHK asks Ishihara to share his thoughts on what it means to be a professional.


“Someone who can always challenge themselves to continuously put something new together,” answers Ishihara. “While I do believe that it is difficult to come up with something new, I also believe one [a professional] would find joy in that, without thinking of it as being difficult.”


While Pokémon is known for having most of their success in a market towards children, when Ishihara is working on a Pokémon game, he doesn’t make it while thinking exclusively of the younger audience. He also thinks about the audience’s generation, race, gender, and what he feels they would find amusing, as he works on a game.


After taking that into consideration, it makes sense why the Pokémon series has been increasingly gaining an older audience of college students in terms of popularity in Japan.


“If there’s even one person who says that this is just for play, so it’s a little boring, then it’s an issue that must be fixed,” says Ishihara. “If we settle ‘amusement’ in a halfhearted manner, then people won’t look twice, so we must thoroughly make it into something that can be considering amusing, and not stopping until we achieve this, is what’s important.”

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  • epy

    I’ve recently gotten back into Pokemon after shunning the series for the better part of a decade. It has this sense of adventure many games lack these days. I hope microtransactions don’t ruin it in the future.

    • Zero_Destiny

      Oh yeah, while I haven’t ‘shunned’ it or anything the DS titles just didn’t interest me as much as the games used to, and I never ended up beating White or even getting White 2.

      When I started to play Y though, it was pretty refreshing and really gave me that sense of adventure and excitement all over again. I’ve been having a blast with this one.

      • Same here! For some reason, I just couldn’t finish Black and ended up not getting Black 2.

        Yet, X/Y had this thrilling feeling while I played. I think a lot of it goes to the interactivity with friends online and some of the NPCs.

        Just Sunday, it was my birthday, and I got a HUGE amount of Birthday wishes from Passebys, Aquaintences…. the Pokemon Center threw a surprise, and even NPCs like the hair dresser complimented me on it, even remembering me winning the League!

        Hell, a friend gave me a free Xerneas as a gift!

        So many things about X/Y have this sense of life that Black/ Black 2 seemed to lack.

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          Now if we could just have a function that lets us defend our throne as League Champion

        • Zero_Destiny

          The social functions in the games are pretty fun, totally. :) I dig O-Powers too, giving them out, & receiving them from buds in a pinch, really added to the experience.

  • echokanon

    Somehow now I’m enjoying more of the competitive battle part and a little tired of the catch em all part. perhaps i’ve lost some of the playful heart in the process of growing up…

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      No you’re slowly learning the magic of being a pokemon breeder

      • echokanon

        I was once a breeder but at the end I gave up as asking someone to help RNG one is much simpler by EV training something for them… But too bad there’s no RNG yet for 3DS only games and EV training is much easier now so it won’t work anymore.

        • J_Joestar

          well on the other hand, IV Breeding is far easier now. Destiny Knot + Friend Safari Pokemon + Everstone/Power Items.

    • JustThisOne

      I’m not going to lie, the mix-maxing part of me can really ruin the “fun” of a lot of games for me. I still love pokemon, but I wish I wasn’t so crazy about EV training. xD I’m glad they put this level of customization within pokemon.

      Luckily, this gen made it tons easier

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      I really hope one day he would make one that aimed at the older fan. Something on the lines of SMT *not rated M tho XD*

  • Amen, the “Playful Heart”, in my opinion is something that other video game developers should try to regain back. Perhaps it could also be a secret to success.

  • Renaldi Saputra

    get your facts right, genwunners

  • FlyingPony

    Good principle, Tsunekazu Ishihara. Instead of looking at the market and let the market decide how the game will turn out, its better to focus on making a game that fun.

    This mass appeal mentality is what making a scary game, less scary (to appeal scaredy cat people), a hard but rewarding game, become easy and boring (to appeal casual), sad game, become not so sad game and so on. All the unique experience gone in order to appeal everyone.

    It also the reason why there are many cloned, play the same games in the market, like FPS number 100th that play like COD.. Market like it, so everyone is making the same genre games (military shooter), thus making the market saturated by the same kind of games..

    Its better to focus on making fun game, it might no be popular but if it is fun, it will attract people to play it. Maybe even make the market shift to liking that new game, because it did have the fun factor.

  • Learii

    he playing pokemon cards

  • Christopher McNair

    How is removing gym rebattles, trainer rebattles, and post game every gen “fun”? They just recycle the mechanics over and over, just adding new pokemon and increasingly bizarre evo methods.

    • Bigabu Beaze

      Thank you! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Way to miss the point of pokemon and the work they do on these games.

        • Bigabu Beaze

          I didn’t miss the point. I don’t like Pokemon.

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Well too bad for you. Go get your hometown elsewhere.

            Shit why the hell did you click on the link?
            There arent any boobs in here/

          • Bigabu Beaze

            Are you sure? It seems like I’m talking to a boob right now.

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Does it have a blue bill?

          • Bigabu Beaze

            I dont think so. Nice arguing with you I got nothing else to say yo. It was fun. I bet we’d be friends if we met under different circumstances.

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            No not really :p

          • Bigabu Beaze

            Well alright then.

    • Aaron K Stone

      You can rebattle the gym leaders though.

    • Gemlit

      Players have their own stories on when they face the trainers and gym leaders. Plus, it adds new content to each character’s own story as well as the rest of the overall story. When players fall in love with a story and the characters that are in it, they want more content. As for the adding of new Pokemon and more evo methods, that’s creative work, whether you think of it as or not. It is still creating something from nothing.

  • RazeXI

    Man I wish he was my game dev professor :/, my actual professor just talks about how you should “always go for the idea that sells” even if its another bland game

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      wow sounded like my professor. he pretty much want you to make a empty sell of a game that will sell well, but wont leave a Impact on a gamer

  • I think it’s admirable how he creates these games with fun in mind, and it really shows in the work!
    If only more American producers kept that mindset instead of turning profit hungry.

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      Ahh! Me too,

  • Lucas

    Please make EarthBound Zero/MOTHER 1 Prequel on Wii U & 2DS?

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