The history behind the Pokémon franchise


When Pokémon debuted a few decades ago, people probably didn’t expect it would go on to dominate the world. However, ever since we were introduced to Pikachu and the other pocket monsters of the Kanto region, it’s become one of the biggest franchises in creation. It’s spawned numerous movies, toys, and TV shows, as well as a whole host of Nintendo-based video games. Pokémon has truly captured the world, but how did it reach the point it’s at today?

The history behind the Pokémon franchise

Starting out small

Pokémon might be best-known for its video games nowadays, but when it started out, it was a gaming magazine. This was in the 1980s, a good decade before Red and Blue were launched to worldwide success. The publication was dedicated to writing about arcade games in Japan, and it soon gave Game Freak the inspiration to experiment with making their own games.

Satoshi Tajiri, the man credited for birthing Pokémon, realized that arcade games were in decline, and that home consoles were the future. So, he and his team started developing titles for Nintendo’s NES and Game Boy, unaware they were about to create one of the greatest franchises in history.

Taking a chance

It might amaze you to hear that Nintendo wasn’t actually that confident about Pokémon’s chances when the idea was first pitched to them. It’s now one of the video game company’s biggest franchises, but in the ‘90s, the concept didn’t make much sense to them. They almost rejected the idea, but thanks to Game Freak’s success with other titles, they gave it a chance. Had Tajiri and his team made Pokémon the first game they worked on, it might never have seen the light of day.

The franchise started under the title of Pocket Monsters, and it was released in Red and Green versions for Game Boys in Japan. It had the basics of Pokémon as players were tasked with traveling the game world and collecting monsters they could pit against each other. This was apparently inspired by Tajiri’s love for collecting insects that he’d had as a child. These games were relatively successful in Japan, selling more than a million copies, and they inspired the titles we know and love today.

The history behind the Pokémon franchise

Living for the hype

The release of these Japanese games came two years before the American versions, during which time hype around the franchise grew in its home country. Limited editions of the games were released to sustain interest, and their sales were helped by the arrival of the Pokémon anime. The series, which continues to churn out new episodes in 2019, introduced viewers to Ash Ketchum and his beloved companion, Pikachu, as they essentially brought the video games to life.

By the time 1998 rolled around, people overseas were desperate for a taste of Pokémon. When the games finally hit their stores, the franchise had been rebranded, and it sold without any trouble. More than 300 million copies of Pokémon Red and Blue have now been purchased worldwide, making it the best-selling RPG in history. Not bad for a game that nearly got rejected by Nintendo.

As it stands, Pokémon is now the biggest media franchise in the world. It’s made an estimated total revenue of $90 billion. The franchise’s popularity hasn’t dwindled in more than 20 years so we can expect to see plenty more releases from Game Freak in the future. After all, we’ve still gotta catch ‘em all!