The Pokémon license turns 25 this year. A quarter of a century ago, Pokémon Red and Green was released in Japan, sealing the arrival of one of the biggest licenses in video game history. We come back to these phenomenal beginnings.
On February 27, Pokémon will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Yes, time flies very, very quickly. For many of us, this is one of the games of our childhood, and this anniversary rings out all the more. In fact, on February 27, 1996, Pokémon Green and Red were released in Japan, with Florizarre and Charizard as their mascots. A green version only released in the land of the rising sun, because in the West, it quickly becomes blue, replaced by Tortank. Nintendo came up with the idea of offering two versions of the same game (with some differences depending on the version), an idea that will remain until the most recent additions to the series (sword and shield). As soon as they were released, the first Pokémon games met with phenomenal and unprecedented success, in Japan as well as in the West. A success that continues today, 25 years later. However, nothing was won in the mid-90s …
A fairy tale genesis
Great collector of insects, Game creator Satoshi Tajiri thinks about what will become the Pokémon license in the 1980s. He wanted to take up this idea of capturing and collecting creatures reminiscent of his insects in video games, and created the company Game Freak in 1989 for this occasion. The following year, he draws what will become the first concepts of Pokémon, at the time called “Capsule Monsters”: Rhinoferos is the very first Pokémon created in the history of the license. In 1991, Tajiri discovered the GameBoy, which he said would be the perfect platform for his game. He therefore immediately decided to propose his idea to the creator of the console, Nintendo.
Tajiri leaves unsure: according to him, Nintendo will refuse to help him. This is not the case, and he quickly joins the team of Shigeru Miyamoto, who takes him under his wing. It is also him who offers him the creation of several versions of the game with different Pokémon in each, thinking that this would help the game from a commercial point of view. (another brilliant idea from the creator of Mario and Zelda). This is how the development of the game started.
A nightmarish development
The development of the first Pokémon game will take 6 years. While that length may seem more normal today, during the 90s, it is extremely long for a GameBoy game. Game Freak is indeed experiencing significant financial difficulties, pushing Tajiri in particular to give up his salary. During 1993, the project was even almost completely abandoned, after the resignation of several employees of Game Freak. Finally, after several nightmarish years, the development of Pokémon Green and Red was finally completed in October 1995.. But now, the GameBoy is now at the end of its life. The holiday marketing was missed and the game finally launched in February 1996. In short, everything indicated a crash in good standing for this new license.
And then the success
But now, quickly, the sauce took. The fact that the Gameboy is at the end of its life implies that the fleet of Nintendo portable consoles was already well established. : You just had to pick up the game to be able to enjoy it, and few other big games were available in the same period. Despite a sluggish start in terms of sales, word of mouth quickly took hold and sales of the game exploded in Japan.. Then, the West follows with the Blue and Red versions: we are still talking about more than 20 million copies sold between Europe and North America. Today, the Pokémon license is one of the most powerful and lucrative in the history of video games, and there is no doubt that these 25 years will be an opportunity for Nintendo and Game Freak to still offer new products that will conquer the fans!