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The "Pika" heard 'round the world

Matt Morgan • Oct 17, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Many of you may be familiar with Pokemon. Perhaps you saw the merchandise in a store? Maybe you have a child who plays those games? For some of you, you were a child who played them when the first versions were released in 1996. Yes, Pokemon is nearly 20 years old and still thriving! It took no small effort in doing so and even with as popular as it is today, Pokemon was initially rejected by Nintendo and almost bankrupt the production studio after being green lit!


Like many successful life/business stories, it all started with an idea its creator had. Growing up in Machida, Satoshi Tajiri (8/28/65) was fond of catching things like bugs and tadpoles. As with many other kids he would visit the fields, forests, streams, and ponds to explore. Unfortunately in the late '70s many of those places were paved over for shopping plazas, apartments, and the like. No longer having the ability to do what he loved, he needed a way to not only continue his passion but share it with others who never even had the opportunity to explore nature in the first place.


When he saw two children playing their Game Boys that were connected by a wire, he could almost see them swapping bugs together. Those modern kids could live in a city, be riding a train, or never have stepped thought about playing outside and still enjoy the simple fun of capturing and collecting bugs. With that, the concept for Pokemon was born! ...And a long, grueling development process would begin.


Finally in 1996 Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green hit the shelves in February. By that point the Game Boy system was at its end of life, but many kids who couldn't afford the new systems still kept theirs and added to the growing popularity of the game. Additionally, the development team kept the 151st Pokemon - Mew - a secret until some promotional events came around. It was a simple enough idea: take something many have done, modernize it, make it accessible to as many as possible, and keep a few special tricks up your sleeve after launch to keep the interest ignited.


Because of the popularity, the marketing for the game grew in Japan to include manga (Japanese comics), a card game which was a popular hobby that surfaced in the mid-nineties, and an anime (Japanese cartoon). This also meant that it was financially feasible for Nintendo to release the game to the rest of the world. After having battles with localization teams (people who do more than just translate words, but cultural references, slang, etc.) the game was finally released in the U.S. in September of 1998. Yes, almost THREE years after its initial release in Japan! But, by then the wave of pop culture and information had helped usher in the game and the future "generations" of Pokemon to come.


Generation II: JP Release - 11/99, US Release 10/00; Game Boy Color

Generation III: JP Release - 11/02, US Release - 3/03; Game Boy Advance

Generation IV: JP Release - 9/06, US Release - 4/07; Nintendo DS

Generation V: JP Release - 9/10, US Release - 3/11; Nintendo DS

Generation VI: Simultaneous worldwide release Saturday October 12, 2013; Nintendo 3DS


With each generation the game slowly grew into something better and better. It was continually rebalanced. New features were added. Klunky ones were removed. Production quality increased. Fans were listened and marketed to through pop culture, becoming a thread of that tapestry itself! The games moved from a very Japanese setting to a New York style one in Gen5 and France style in Gen6.


It took defeat, resourceful thinking, stress, unpaid hours of work, and a lot of marketing and networking but Satoshi finally made it. While living his life he had to try and explain his odd but passionate pursuit to his father, a traditional Japanese "salaryman" (Nissan salesman) and his mother, the traditional Japanese stay-at-home-wife. He defied his father's expectations of him and studied both in a two year technical college and on his own time over a dissected Game Boy in order to learn how it worked and was programmed. But he did it. He made it.


So can you. If you not just have a dream nor even if you merely follow it. But, if you pursue it with all you have, be willing to take some bumps and failures along the way, modify and adapt it to the times, etc. who or what is stopping you from achieving your goals, too?


Mr. Tajiri's story is perhaps even more inspiring for us because in his biography he was said to be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a condition on the Autism Spectrum, making it a victory for that population as well.


P.S. - Short of dissecting a 3DS of your own (which is WAAAAY more encrypted and protected than a Game Boy), you can always order a Raspberry Pi to learn the basics of hardware and software. Especially Linux and Java.

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