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.”