The Pokémon franchise just recently celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and countless fans will no doubt be scrambling to get their hands on the newest entries to the series, Pokémon Sun & Moon, when they release in just about a month’s time. But just how has the franchise managed to stay successful and relevant after such a long period of time? Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda, who is also composing some tracks in Sun & Moon, recently sat down for an interview with EDGE to talk a bit about maintaining the series’ relevance, its appeal to players outside its demographic, the importance of handheld systems, and more. [Thanks, Nintendo Everything.]
First off, when asked how the franchise has managed to maintain success over the past two decades, Masuda replied with the following:
“There are so many variables in the games market that it’s not easy to define why Pokémon has had sustained success. There’s no doubt that the core elements of collecting, battling and trading have a lasting appeal when it comes to kids. But the thing that all our games really have in common is that we start by designing them with the younger audience in mind, and then add elements for our other core players. This means that even people who have never played the game before can easily buy it and get stuck in.”
Next, Masuda also noted that the series’ appeal to a diverse demographic of players has hinged on the competitive nature of its gameplay:
“There are lots of activities that can be enjoyed by adults alongside kids. Think about football, for example. Younger kids may not understand the more complex rules of the game, but both they and adults alike can enjoy playing and seeing the incredible skills of real players. We’re always researching these kinds of elements that can be appreciated and enjoyed regardless of age, and looking to add them to our games.”
Additionally, Masuda believes that Pokémon has enjoyed such longevity because they have never “overhauled” the series and created a rift between players who had enjoyed earlier versions of the games and newer players:
“Pokémon has been consistent in delivering a positive player experience over the past 20 years and, as such, we’re seeing a real nostalgia coming through from those who played the earlier versions of the games. I think the fact that we’ve never overhauled the series and created a divide between the old and the new is also one of the reasons Pokémon has enjoyed such longevity.”
When asked if the main Pokémon games would ever see a migration from handheld systems to home consoles, Masuda had the following to say:
“When coming up with the idea of Pokémon, what we really wanted to create was something where people could get together and have fun trading, battling, showing off their Pokémon collection, and just talking about their own adventures with the game. Handheld consoles and devices offer us the best way to achieve this vision.”
Finally, the EDGE interview concluded with Masuda sending out a thank you message to all of the Pokémon fans who have played the games over the years.
“What I’m most grateful for is that so many fans have supported Pokémon all this time. Without them, Pokémon wouldn’t be where it is today, and Pokémon Go certainly wouldn’t have seen the phenomenal success that it has so far. I really love getting to meet and talk with Pokémon fans, and they’ve given me so many great memories throughout the years. As a recent example, not long ago I gave a speech at the Japan Expo in Paris, and I was blown away that over 3,000 people came to hear it. Pokémon Go seems to have really resonated with people and has huge numbers of players all over the world. It’s far beyond anything I had ever imagined.”
Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon will release for the Nintendo 3DS on November 16th worldwide and November 23rd in Europe.