After initially starting out as a self-published video game magazine called “Game Freak” in the 80s, creators Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori launched a video game company with the same name, 30 years ago today, on April 26, 1989.
One of the first titles Game Freak worked on was a puzzle game called Quinty (Mendel Palace) for the NES. The company would go on to develop other puzzle games for Nintendo including Yoshi’s Egg (Yoshi in the US, Mario & Yoshi in EU) for the NES and Game boy in 1991 and Mario & Wario for the SNES in 1993.
In February 1996 the company would go on to release the very first Pokémon games with the Red and Green versions in Japan, which would then release in the West in September and October of 1998, and the rest was history.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the company, Famitsu put together six fun facts about the company and its creators that not many know:
Fact #1 – Tajiri-san previously worked as a video game writer and even has an article in the first issue of Famitsu magazine!
Before launching Game Freak, Satoshi Tajiri was an active video game writer who used his past experience from his self-published works. He actually used the penname “Game Freak” which you can see on the upper-right.
He even wrote an article for Weekly Famitsu, then called Famicom Tsuushin. To commemorate the occasion, Famitsu shared a look at a page from their very first issue that was written by Satoshi Tajiri himself.
Fact #2 – Game Freak’s office has a “space” theme
Game Freak’s office has a “space” theme. At the reception desk there’s a shining model of Earth to invoke the thought of there being fans around the world. Each of the conference rooms are named after planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, and Gaia.
They even have some conference rooms that doesn’t look like anything from a company at all. Perhaps working in this office could get the creative juices flowing for some.
A bonus little factoid about the company is that employees are not allowed to wear shoes inside the office, similar to a home-like rule. The reason for this is because a long time ago, back in the day, Game Freak didn’t start out as a regular company, as it was more like making video games from home. You can call it a part of Game Freak’s culture that began with their humble beginnings as a self-published magazine.
Fact #3 – The “Volt Tackle” move Pikachu learns is a throwback to Pulseman
There’s a story behind the iconic move “Volt Tackle” (called ボルテッカー/Volteccer in Japanese) that can be learned by Pikachu and his evolution Raichu and the pre-evolved form Pichu. It is a reference to the 1994 action platform game that Game Freak developed for the Sega Mega Drive.
The original “Volt Tackle” was used by the game’s protagonist Pulseman who can freely travel between the real and computer, that does it by turning himself into a ball of electricity.
In Japanese, the S.S. Anne luxury cruise liner is called サント・アンヌ号, or Model St. Anne/Annu, (Model comes from “号” which is basically used for “S.S.” in Japanese). The name “Saint Anne” is actually the name of the computer in Pulseman.
Fact #4 – The Game Freak office and employees appear throughout the Pokémon series
In Pokémon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow and Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal versions you can go to Celadon City’s Celadon Condominiums’ third floor to visit the Game Freak Development Room. Here you can grab your commemorative diploma after completing your Pokédex.
Other entries in the series also saw the Game Freak office, but that’s not always the case. In Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire and Pokémon X & Y you might run into Game Freak employees hanging out at a hotel. You can actually fight against trainers who are Game Freak employees in Pokémon Black & White, Pokémon Black 2 & White 2, Pokémon Sun & Moon, and Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon.
Some notable examples include battle director Shigeki Morimoto who appears as a character named “Morimoto,” game designer Koji Nishino as “Nishino” in Pokémon Black 2 & White 2, and Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon director Kazumasa Iwao as “Iwao.”
Fact #5 – Each employee has a Pokémon illustration on their business cards
Each employee of Game Freak has a different Pokémon illustrated on their business cards. Whenever a new employee joins the company, they can select one Pokémon that hasn’t been chosen.
At the moment the company is only using Pokémon that appears in the Kanto region. One of the company’s founding members, Junichi Masuda, is the only exception who has two Pokémon on his business card with Pikachu & Pichu.
Fact #6 – Game Freak has a system in the company called “Game Minister”
There’s a system within Game Freak where the company “ministers” find not only video games, but board games and card games as the “game ministers,” and from there they host demonstration events together with other employees.
We’ve seen some of these occasions where Shigeki Morimoto played some games. Morimoto, who usually works on the simple yet in-depth battles of the Pokémon appears to be a specialist when it comes to strategizing, not only in video games but even party games like Mafia/Werewolf.
Happy 30th birthday, Game Freak!